Meet Tricia Yea, the Food Bank of South Jersey’s Program Manager for their Healthy Living Initiative, a program established in 2011 providing hands-on learning experiences to empower healthier lifestyle choices. Tricia has the pleasure of meeting and working with a variety of volunteers through her work at FBSJ, and recently she made a revelation: why do so many volunteers “work for free?” Her compelling story captures the answer to that very question. Read more below!
I was introduced to the Food Bank of South Jersey (FBSJ) while completing my community rotation hours for school. By volunteering at FBSJ, I was earning college credits. I was teaching children and adults how to shop healthy on a budget, how to cook low-cost healthy meals and I was learning while doing it, things that I could use in my own household.
After completing my Nutrition Science and Dietetic Technician Degree, I received a call from FBSJ. They asked if I was available to help teach a food safety class for some of the member agencies. I wasn’t earning credits anymore and I wasn’t getting paid, so why would I do that? My answer was easy, “I loved it”. It was personally satisfying and fulfilled my charitable desires.
This journey led me to where I am today, Program Manager for the Food Bank of South Jersey’s Healthy Living Initiative. I helped to design one of our signature courses called Youth Nutrition Outreach Training (YNOT). YNOT is a 6-week program designed to train youth how to conduct a cooking demonstration. The students practice their public speaking and leadership skills. They also create their own recipe and prepare it in front of an audience. The students that excel in the program are chosen to be “Nutrition Assistants.” These students have the opportunity to get paid to assist our department with cooking classes, demonstration, and shopping tours.
Similar to my story, these students were in the class for different reasons. Some were eager to learn new skills, some liked to cook, and some self-admitted to being in it for the money.
I knew it was my job to teach the students skills to succeed but I also wanted them to be passionate about the mission of FBSJ like I was. This would separate the leaders from the workers.
Several of our Nutrition Assistants have been hired to work full-time this summer in our Summer Meals program. They obviously proved themselves as hard workers and they were eager to earn some money.
I saw my students, working this week side by side with volunteers both old and young. They proudly told their story of “how they got this job.” It wasn’t until the end of the first week that I had my proudest moment…
When it was time to clock out, some of the students had to wait for the bus or for a ride home. Manifah, a student of Camden High School was one of those students. Instead of going to the break room or just waiting around for the bus, she came into my office and said, “Ms. Trish, do you have any work I can do until my bus gets here?” I looked at her, seeing the tired in her eyes, as she had worked a 7-hour shift and had been here since 6:30 am and wondered why she wanted to work more. She wouldn’t be on the clock and would not be getting paid, so why would she do that? It was that moment I realized that she was just like me. She knew she had some time to give and just wanted to do more. She believed in our mission and knew there was more work to be done. She is what every employer looks for in an employee. Someone who goes above and beyond and doesn’t protest when asked to do a little extra off the clock.
I have heard my share of students whine about not getting enough hours or not getting paid enough or not wanting to “work for free.” But there are still those out there who understand the mission of our non-profit and will work for smiles. They know we rely on volunteerism to accomplish that mission. Volunteering at the Food Bank of South Jersey can earn you credits, it can build your skills and resume, but above all volunteering at FBSJ can help feed children.
So ask yourself: ‘Why wouldn’t you do that?'”