After the first bell rings, Arvada Community Food Bank volunteers get to work.
Early one Thursday morning, six adults gathered in the Fitzmorris Elementary School cafeteria, 6250 Independence St., unloading and sorting boxes of donated food from a gold SUV and into the empty lunchroom.
“I think we’ve got it all in,” said Jim Scharfenberg, one of the founders of the Arvada Community Food Bank Backpack-A-Roo program, as he brings in the last box of food.
The backpack program is weekly, and benefits elementary students across the Arvada and Wheat Ridge who may not have enough food for themselves or their families throughout the weekend. It began 10 years ago,and currently serves 1,700 students.
“Do you think we should do the tortillas then the milk?” Jean Scharfenberg said as she organized the items in order they would be packed into sacks for students to take home.
“We have corn, beans, tomatoes, and applesauce today,” another volunteer added, as he sorted the cans onto the table.
The volunteers set the food — canned vegetables, tortillas, cereal, milk and candy — in packing order. Volunteers grab white plastic sacks, line up like in an assembly line and begin to pack a weekend’s worth of food inside. As they pack, the volunteers lightly chat about the latest books to read, upcoming vacations, other volunteer opportunities and life.
“We’re going to spring training!” one of the women excitedly told another as she packed a nutrition bar into one of the packs. “Oh, mmmm, peanut butter chocolate chip granola bars!”
As they completed each pack, a volunteer labeled it with a student’s name and sorted it into one of 15 tubs, each representing the different classrooms the program served.
Then it’s delivery time.
Two volunteers loaded each tub onto a wheeled cart and pushed their way through the school. Delivering them to individual classrooms, they placed the bins in an easily accessible spot for the children to pick up and take home for their families.
Once back in the cafeteria, the group of six began to break down empty boxes and clean up while they finish the last few weekend packs. And, as they tie off the bags, they’re helping students and their families have healthy meals, and are making a nourishing impact on them, not only for the weekend — but in their lifetime.