Volunteers Share “A Day in the Life” at Foodwise—and What Keeps Them Coming Back

January 5, 2024

Foodwise volunteer, Kat, holds up a Delicata squash to show a group of Foodwise Kids at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

As you take stock of your New Year’s resolutions, you may be wondering where to start. If you’re resolving to get involved in your local community, consider volunteering with Foodwise. Foodwise relies on volunteers and interns to support our range of free education programs and farmers market services. But what exactly does that look like?

For a first-person glimpse, we asked four of our dedicated volunteers to describe “a day in the life” supporting different programs. They also share how volunteering with Foodwise feeds their curiosity, nourishes new connections, and grows diverse skill sets—plus surrounds them with delicious food. 

Read about their experiences below, and learn more at our online volunteer orientation on January 10.

Foodwise volunteer, Rishika, passes out samples at a Foodwise demo at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

Rishika Gundi, Foodwise Demo Volunteer

Rishika was a regular shopper at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market when she decided to get more involved. She supports Foodwise’s free public cooking demos on Saturdays.

When I get to the Foodwise kitchen in the morning, I meet up with everyone who’s working on my shift. Then we get the recipe and see, “Okay, this is everything that’s going into what we’re cooking today.” We go into the market and pick up the items on the list. Once, we were making cookies with Annie’s T Cakes, and we got everything from the market, even flour and  almonds.  

Then, we meet the chef, and they walk us through everything that they need. We begin prepping the recipe in the kitchen with the chef, and then they go into the Foodwise Classroom tent and start doing the demo for the audience. We continue prepping so that we can give out samples. If there’s more than one demo that day, we also get to try stuff from that demo.

When the chef is done with the demo, we finish plating everything, then give out samples to everyone in the audience. Then we help clean up and wash the dishes, and put everything back in its place. And then, if there are leftovers, we sometimes get to take them home.

I very recently learned how to cook and figured out that I really like doing that. Being able to help out and meet chefs, use ingredients from the market to learn their recipes and techniques, and also interact with the other volunteers is super fun. It’s cool to meet like-minded people and work together.

Foodwise volunteer, Stephanie, poses with a group of Foodwise Kids in front of a farm stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

Stephanie Blottner, Foodwise Kids Volunteer

In 2023, Stephanie started volunteering with our Foodwise Kids program, which hosts free farmers market field trips for SFUSD elementary students. 

When I get to the kitchen, the amazing Foodwise interns have already started a lot of the setup. I may help set up the sinks for dishwashing or help set up the tables. Then, Nesley, the Foodwise Kids & Families Education Manager, leads us through the focus for the day.

Once the kids arrive, it’s all about building rapport with them and helping them understand what we’re going to do. Then, it’s taking the group through the farmers market to pick out fruits and vegetables. And finally, guiding them through how to taste different foods and how to speak empathetically about food you like and don’t like. 

What keeps me coming back are the small moments with the kids, like when they try pomegranate seeds for the first time and their faces pucker up, or when they realize that there’s more than one color of carrot. Each class is unique and can bring about really fun moments that you could never predict. 

Volunteering with Foodwise is really fulfilling, because not only do you get to give back and be part of this beautiful community, but you also get to learn about those ecosystems of sustainable and locally grown foods yourself. The Foodwise team makes it really easy for you to get started, and it’s incredibly well organized and fun. Nesley and the team put a lot of trust in the volunteers, which I think is rare and special. It means that you can be creative.

Foodwise volunteers, Kat and Yuki, pose with a group of Foodwise Kids next to a farmers market stand full of persimmons.

Kat Ngo, Foodwise Kids Volunteer

Kat started volunteering with Foodwise in 2017, supporting special events and our market services at the Info Booth. In 2023, she started supporting Foodwise Kids.

I really love working with students. Kids are at a time in their lives when they’re curious, and I love playing a role in encouraging them to keep an open mind and to try new things. What drew me to Foodwise initially was that it’s all about educating people about sustainable farming and increasing access to local, nutritious fruits and veggies. The younger the students are when they are exposed to new fruits and veggies, the better.

Foodwise volunteer, Wayne. poses for a photo in front of stands at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

Wayne Lam, Veggie Valet Volunteer

Wayne has been volunteering with Foodwise since the beginning of 2017, supporting Foodwise education programs and fundraising events. He regularly volunteers at the Veggie Valet, a free market service that lets shoppers conveniently store and pick up their purchased produce curbside.

I like volunteering at Veggie Valet because it provides me with the opportunity to make our market shoppers’ trip more pleasant and efficient by helping them store their farmers market purchases under Foodwise’s supervision. Then, they can continue to enjoy their shopping experience or have a lovely meal at the farmers market without worrying about lugging their purchases around. 

I have always been customer service oriented. So I really enjoy meeting people from different cultures and backgrounds, connecting with them through food, and hopefully, being able to brighten up their day with a smile.

I started volunteering with Foodwise because I want to learn about our food system, make a difference by contributing to the community, and also meet new like-minded people. I believe it’s important to understand our precious yet fragile food system and appreciate the dedication, commitment, and hard work from all individuals within the food system.

Volunteering with Foodwise has been an invaluable experience. It has allowed me to connect, learn, and grow through working with fellow members and volunteers in various programs and events. It has also provided opportunities for social and activity engagements that are beneficial to our mental and physical well-being. I strongly encourage everyone to volunteer with Foodwise to make a positive social impact.

Join our online volunteer orientation on January 10 at 5 pm to learn about the many ways you can make a difference, from helping out our public cooking demos to teaching kids to cook. RSVP here.

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