“Food is near and dear to me. People should be able to eat what they want.”
And that’s partly what led Linda Fisher down the path that brought her to the Client Choice Food Pantry at Urban Ministries of Wake County as a volunteer.
Before her retirement, she’d spent eight years as the Food Drive Manager and Special Events Coordinator at the Food Bank of Eastern and Central North Carolina. For the last four years, she’s volunteered on Tuesdays in the county’s largest client choice pantry.
Linda was at UMWC even before the clients had a choice in what they’d be getting. She remembers packing boxes and bags for neighbors in need and thinking, “I don’t like bananas. I wouldn’t want someone packing bananas for me.” She also remembers when UMWC was making the switch from handing out boxes to clients being able to shop for their own food just like they would in a grocery store.
“I had a terrible time imagining how it would work, but it did,” she says. Linda says she can see the difference it makes for the shoppers and that it’s so much better than it used to be. Shoppers pick out things they like and Linda says the fresh produce often sparks conversation. “We talk about recipes. Like what to do with buttermilk or why some okra is red instead of the green you’re used to seeing.”
Linda says she views the other people who volunteer in the Client Choice Pantry as friends. “The volunteers are fun,” she says. Linda also likes working with Nick Robertson, the Hunger and Nutrition Manager, because he lets people be themselves and to fulfill the pantry role in which they feel most comfortable.
When asked what’s had an impact on her during these years of volunteer service, Linda says, “an older gentleman was shopping and I helped him load groceries. It was obvious he was living in his minivan. It stayed with me.”
If there is one thing Linda believes from all of her experience in hunger relief and food insecurity, it’s that people are generous if we just tell them the problem exists, and for whom. “There are working people coming here. There are some over 65, who aren’t working, but others are clearly dressed for work and taking work phone calls.” She also notes more children coming in during the summer.
Linda says she would tell anyone considering volunteering at UMWC that it’s a “nice way to meet people and it’s rewarding to see a direct impact.”