Volunteering During a Pandemic: An Insightful Perspective from a Food Bank Volunteer

The San Diego Food Bank and the North County Food Bank launched their COVID-19 Response one year ago to meet the increased demand for food assistance caused by the pandemic. When the pandemic reached our region in mid-March, the Food Bank went from feeding 350,000 people to over 600,000 a month almost overnight. That number included some who were seeking assistance for the very first time. Not only did the Food Bank have to pivot to distribute more food to those in need, but we also needed the help of volunteers more than ever before. Individuals like Jonathan Sison answered the Food Bank's call for support.

San Diego resident, Jonathan Sison, is grateful that he and his loved ones remained healthy but he knows others were not as fortunate. 2020 was a challenging year for many people all over the world and he shares that it was heartbreaking to see so many lives upended by the pandemic.

Dedicating his time and energy to help the community became a priority but safety remained a concern. As much as Jonathan wanted to help, he did not know how or where. Jonathan was watching local news coverage on how the pandemic was threatening access to healthy food for hundreds of thousands of people here in San Diego as they faced the fallout of job loss. Jonathan immediately knew this is how he wanted to help. He began researching local food banks for volunteer opportunities and discovered the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank and signed up for a volunteer shift.

We virtually spoke with Jonathan about his experience volunteering at the Food Bank. Here is his perspective.


San Diego Food Bank: Why did you choose to volunteer at the Food Bank?
Jonathan Sison:
I wanted to serve and help those in need, especially in a time of crisis. San Diego has been my community for over 10 years and I want to give back in any way possible. I began contributing with donations but wanted to do more.

SDFB: How was your experience volunteering?
I have volunteered before but volunteering during a pandemic was a much different experience. The staff at the Jacobs & Cushman Food Bank were friendly and welcoming. Instructions were clear and the process was organized. Safety was a top priority as masks, gloves, and social distancing were strictly enforced. I was blown away by the sense of community among the staff and volunteers. Many volunteers were regulars and knew each other outside of the Food Bank. Volunteers with distinct cultures, ages and stories and despite those differences, everyone had the same goal, to support a cause of good and help those in need.

SDFB: What have you learned about the Food Bank and the need in our communities?
JS: I have learned that food insecurity is a real problem that threatens thousands of lives globally. Organizations like the Food Bank are committed to fighting this issue but community members are an integral piece to the solution. For this to work, a community must come together with the same goal of helping people in need.

SDFB: What would you say to those that are thinking about volunteering?
JS: I would strongly urge those interested in volunteering to try it. Helping fight hunger and directly helping members of our community is truly a rewarding experience. I firmly believe that true happiness comes from serving others; it gives one's life a greater purpose.


Volunteers Are the Back Bone of the Food Bank's Operations

Since the pandemic reached the San Diego community in mid-March 2020, we have had over 32,000 volunteer visits between both our Miramar and Vista facilities helping the Food Bank fulfill critical operational needs. Some projects included inspecting and sorting fresh produce, assembling 35-pound food packages for seniors living on a fixed income, and inspecting and sorting donated food items for distribution throughout the community helping local families in need.

Our volunteers are at the backbone of our operations and we could not carry out our important work without their support. To sign up to volunteer, visit SanDiegoFoodBank.org/Volunteer and click the "Register Now" button to get started.

Special thanks to Jonathan Sison, co-writer of this blog post and Food Bank volunteer.