Feeding San Diego

While Businesses Deal With Employee Shortages, San Diego Nonprofits See Need for Volunteers

Food distribution lines lag, due in part to volunteers staying at home during the pandemic

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While San Diego County businesses deal with an employee shortage, some local nonprofits are dealing with a shortage of volunteers.

“Volunteers are the heartbeat of our organization. We can’t do what we do without them,” said Feeding San Diego Communications Manager Carissa Casares.

The Sorrento Valley-based nonprofit says it operated in the last fiscal year with roughly 90% fewer volunteers than the previous year.

“Some of that was our doing, right, because of space, capacity restrictions,” explained Casares. “In the last three weeks, we’ve had a number of groups cancel.”

The other volunteers may have gotten sick, are afraid of getting sick, or can no longer afford to simply volunteer.

South Bay Community Services also tweeted out an urgent call for volunteers Wednesday.

“We could always use more volunteers especially with these really big distribution sites,” said frequent volunteer Gerri Matthiesen.

Casares said it’s people like Matthiesen that allowed Feeding San Diego to still operate almost 100 mass food distribution events in the last year. Casares said the nonprofit was able to provide food for 29% more people last year compared to the previous year despite going from 9,950 volunteers to 1,030.

“That is a staggering decrease,” said Casares. “We had a really core group who worked more to make sure that those meals were able to be distributed.”

She added some volunteers logged upwards of 500 volunteer hours in 2021.

“It’s my way of giving back to the community because food insecurity is such a big issue these days,” said Matthiesen.

“These people are selfless. They are generous,” added Casares.

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