Community Meals hungry for volunteers

Dylan Archbold

A Johnson Community Meals gathering at the United Church

SERVE is looking for more volunteers for Johnson Community Meals, a bimonthly gathering at the United Church in the village center.

Johnson Community Meals’ mission statement states its purpose as providing aid for those in poverty, or who do not have a steady source of food, as well as to build connections and a sense of community within the Johnson area.

“Not only is it a great way for members of the community to come out and break bread and have some time together, but people who maybe can’t afford three square meals a day to come and get their meal,” said SERVE Graduate Assistant Tara Robinson. “It is also a great way for people to gain experience [with community service].”

While Johnson Community Meals are served at the Johnson United Church, it is Johnson State College that provides the food for the every-other-week event.

Sodexo now continues the free service initially begun by ARAMARK, the college’s former food provider.

Sodexo is also providing equipment, such as heating trays, as well as food transportation if it is required.

Normally this is supposed to be the job of Laraway Youth and Family Services of Johnson, but Laraway does not always have dedicated vans on hand to transport the food. In that case, Sodexo takes over.

This past summer, Laraway was unable to transport the food and equipment to the church.

Sodexo General Manager Tom Fondakowski used his own vehicle for the duration of June and July.

This service was provided in addition to the food for 75 that it prepares every two weeks.

The funding, around $400 per Johnson Community Meal, comes directly from Sodexo’s wholesale food budget, according to Fondakowski.

“Tad and James [with Aramark] were great, but Sodexo’s transition was seamless,” said Rick Aupperlee, School to Work coordinator at Laraway Youth & Family Services. “Tom [Fondakowski] has been a fantastic help.”

At the meal site itself, a core of local volunteers provides most of the food service, and event management.

Aside from a few Sodexo volunteers, JSC also provides volunteers if it is able.

According to Robinson, Johnson Community Meals plans to acquire dedicated vehicles for its use so the transportation situation is not always so hectic week to week.

Robinson also wants more volunteers from Johnson State College. The hope is for at least a dedicated core of JSC volunteers of at least 3-5 per week.

“If you show up [as a volunteer], and every position is filled at the event, your time will not be wasted,” Robinson said. “Even just sitting down and sharing a meal with community members is super beneficial, and just a great experience to have. We really encourage students to get involved, and get to know the community that we share.”

Those interested in volunteering for Johnson Community Meals can contact Krista Swahn (Krista.Swahn@jsc.edu ) or Tara Robinson in the SERVE Office.