It’s 8 a.m., and the bright, shiny kitchen at the Central Texas Food Bank is quiet but for a line chef putting away a few clean dishes from the day before. You would never know that in about an hour, the kitchen will be hopping.
Around 9 a.m., a group of excited volunteers arrive ready to jam out to great music while they help feed Central Texas children in need. As a volunteer, your shift starts with an orientation, where you’ll learn about the Food Bank’s mission and get an overview of what goes on in the kitchen. Food safety is a top priority here, so you’ll also learn about precautions to take to make sure everything is clean and safe.
In the mornings, volunteers help assemble and package nutritious meals that will be delivered to kids the next day. The tray line starts at 9 a.m. To keep food out of the “temperature danger zone” of 41-135°F, meals are assembled in a huge cold room. You’ll want to dress warm for this part!
You’ll work with a group of new friends in an assembly line. Each person adds one or two items to the meal tray. Then you’ll arrange the meals on sheet pans in tall speed racks. Time flies once you get into a rhythm of scooping food to the beat of classic tunes. Before you know it, you’ve helped put together about 700 nutritious meals for the next day’s delivery!
Next, you’ll learn how to use an Oliver Speedseal machine to seal each meal with plastic film. Later, you may even get to use “Ollie Junior” to seal smaller cups of fresh fruit or other snacks.
In the afternoon, you might help pack meals that will be delivered that day in insulated coolers and set up trays or prepare food for the next morning’s tray line. You may find yourself rolling homemade dinner rolls, making creamy mac and cheese, or seasoning pans of veggies. It’s amazing how much food is produced here!
At the end of the day, everyone works together to clean and sanitize the kitchen. After all the hustle and bustle of the day, everything winds down. Suddenly the kitchen is quiet and sparkling again, and you know you’ve been a part of something wonderful.
Volunteering in the kitchen at the Central Texas Food Bank gives you the chance to have fun while getting involved in different parts of food production. You’ll also learn about commercial kitchen practices and phrases (like mise en place), equipment, such as tilt skillets and blast chillers, and federal child nutrition programs that make this all possible. Most importantly, you’ll help feed children in need!
With the summer break approaching, children will no longer have access to the free or reduced priced lunches available at school, but our kitchen is here to help. That means we’ll need 3,000 kitchen volunteers during the summer to prepare 3,000 meals and snacks every day.
If you’re interested in helping us in the kitchen,sign up to volunteer here. If you want to get involved on a consistent basis and hone your leadership skills, a kitchen volunteer lead position may be perfect for you.