FFEN’s work supporting improved operations and services at local MN food shelves would not be possible without the hours of time and expertise that skilled volunteers share. A particularly important role is the Project Manager volunteer position. Project Managers serve as the primary relationship holder with a local MN food shelf and help augment the food shelf’s capacity to tackle a big challenge, something that volunteer-run food shelves might have difficulty adding to their plate. Project Manager volunteers serve as both a cheer-leader and accountability partner, keeping food shelf leaders motivated and positive about changes while also ensuring the timeline stays on track and subject matter experts are brought in at the right time. Not only does this volunteer role add capacity to a local food shelf, but it also expands the number of organizations that FFEN can provide support to at a given time.
FFEN’s engagement with the Rock County Food Shelf over the last year provides a great example of the critical role of the Project Manager volunteer. Rock County Food Shelf is a volunteer-run food shelf in Luverne, MN that provides food to the entire county through it’s operation. The full impact of FFEN’s work with the Rock County Food Shelf can be found here!
As part of the standard consultation process, FFEN’s Program Staff had an initial conversation with the food shelf leaders, Mary and Katie, via zoom to build a relationship, better understand their program and gather information about their unique challenges and opportunities. This meeting helps define how FFEN can best support a food shelf and also assists with identifying the Project Manager volunteer that might best support the engagement. The volunteer Project Manager matched with Rock County Food Shelf leaders was Carolyn Kohrs. Carolyn’s background in engineering and project management provide a strong base for work alongside food shelves. This volunteer role doesn’t need to be an expert in all things of hunger relief, but does need to use their project manager lens to identify the timeline, areas of expertise and funding needed, and lead communication for the project to be successful.
The working relationship then transitioned to Carolyn to help support the food shelf related to the needs identified - layout design for their new location, implementation of food sourcing changes, and expansion of their cooler and freezer capacity to allow for more fresh food for their shoppers.
In March 2021, Carolyn visited both Rock County’s old location and their new building to get a tour of both spaces, take measurements of the new space, and review their Food Sourcing Analysis Report. From that meeting, Carolyn developed a draft timeline, budget and list of expertise needs and requests to the broader FFEN staff and volunteer team. Carolyn worked with Tim, a Layout Design volunteer, to build out recommendations for the new space and coordinated feedback and updates from the Rock County food shelf team. After the food shelf moved into their new location and were opening for client shopping inside, Carolyn made another visit out to Luverne with FFEN staff member, Kate Burggraff, to further discuss food sourcing changes as well as implementing FFEN’s new Food Shelf signs to shop by category. After service and space changes are made, FFEN staff and volunteers help support food shelves to continue effective implementation for three months - allowing for opportunities to problem-solve any additional challenges that might have occured and keep refining and tweaking new systems.
All in all, Carolyn provided roughly 25 hours of pro-bono volunteer time to this project across six months, an estimated value of nearly $5,000. “Thank you for your effort in this. This is amazing!” Shared Katie, Rock County Food Shelf volunteer and board member. This highlights the immense impact that sharing your expertise can have for food access in a local community, even if the volunteer hours might be minimal. For more information about the Project Manager volunteer role, contact FFEN at email@example.com.