Rainier Emergency Food Center
We packed up the car and left the POWER office before 9:30. The Mobile CSO office was scheduled to be at the REFC; we were eager to survey the recipients of both food bank services and public assistance applicants. When we pulled into the parking lot, we went inside the food bank building to speak with the volunteer coordinator. Nancy greeted us with a warm smile, as well as a few other volunteers. They got us set up right in front of the entrance door so we could speak with people as they went inside.
This food bank, as Chris spoke of in our interview, is the closest TCFB satellite to a shopping model. This means that they have enough space for recipients to walk around to the different food stations and pick out what they want within their allotment. In Chris’ ideal world, all satellites would have the capacity to replicate the shopping model. This improves the recipient experience and makes the food bank a much friendlier place to be.
Our experience with this food bank was certainly friendly. There was music playing inside and most people were chatting and hanging out until it was their turn in line. The welcoming atmosphere makes this service provider a more approachable service for folks. We felt our table was also easily approachable by service recipients. Many people were eager to voice their experience in our surveys. We collected 11 Surveys and had multiple friendly conversations with both recipients and volunteers (or their husbands).
After the food bank was closed we helped load all of the food back into storage. The next day they opened would be Saturday, so they needed to sort out what fruits and vegetables would last that long and get rid of what was going bad. They sent both Jen and I home with plenty of bananas and cantaloupe that would have been tossed.
After each distribution day the volunteers gather for a potluck meal in the warehouse. We learned that the volunteers are working hard seven days a week to distribute food to allies they have partnerships with, as well as pick up donations and stock their storage with both perishable and non-perishable goods. We ate lunch with them and celebrated two birthdays of volunteers. They told us about the needs of the REFC as well as what other organizations they work closely with to distribute food to the greater Thurston Community.