Since the beginning of the pandemic Donna Mitchell, one of the Food Depository’s most generous volunteers, logged an astonishing 350 hours of volunteer service through the end of fiscal year 2021.

Mitchell splits her time between supporting the Fresh Truck, the mobile distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables at low-income health clinics, and repacking food at the Food Depository warehouse.

She likes working with the mix of new volunteers and regulars like herself, sharing in the joy of helping their community.

“All you hear from people afterward is, ‘I’ll be back.’”

Donna Mitchell, Food Depository Volunteer

Our volunteers do keep coming back, day in and day out. In fiscal year 2021, more than 11,200 volunteers dedicated 80,000 hours of service to support our mission – either at our facility or one of our programs. At our partner food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters, more than 4,500 volunteers work on the front lines every day to ensure families have access to nutritious food.

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic persists, people of all ages and backgrounds continued to step up. Thanks to strict health and safety protocols instituted at the beginning of the pandemic, volunteers have kept serving at the Food Depository most days of the week.

Volunteers are essential to our mission, the heartbeat of our daily impact on hunger. We rely on them to repack food in our warehouse and distribute food to our neighbors out in the community. Volunteer drivers deliver nutritious food and meals across our community, and lead Lunch Bus distributions for children during the summer.

Volunteers are inspired to take action in the face of elevated food insecurity across Chicago and Cook County. Some, like longtime volunteer Rita Pineda, also know what it is like to need help.

As a single mother of two, Pineda briefly relied on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to help feed her family. She went on to become a teacher in the Chicago Public Schools and is now retired after 24 years in the classroom and keeps giving back as a Food Depository volunteer.

“To be able to come here, I leave feeling so good, knowing that someone, somewhere down the line is going to be helped,” Pineda said.

We are grateful for our volunteers’ perseverance and undeterred commitment to providing food and hope to our neighbors.