Thank you to Marie Winker for sharing her experiences with VEAP (Volunteers Enlisted to Assist People)
The VEAP Service Center in Bloomington is a service hub combining services from Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department as well as the VEAP Food Program under one roof for low income residents of Bloomington, Richfield, Edina and South Minneapolis.
The VEAP Food Program includes the largest food pantry in Minnesota where clients arriving by bus are able to arrange to get transportation home with their food.
The NEAT (Nutrition Education and Teaching) program supplements the Food Program by repurposing fresh food (by making banana bread to distribute in the pantry), provide samples (to introduce and teach clients how to use some less common food items) and conduct cooking classes.
I first heard of VEAP when a professional group I belong to was invited to a meeting of another group in winter 2014. VEAP had recently moved into the building and the commercial/teaching kitchen was still under construction. I had the distinct impression that I could see myself volunteering there. Two years later, a group from my church worked in the warehouse and after that I finally pursued becoming a volunteer.
Volunteers are needed in all aspects of VEAP programs. Thus far, I have volunteered in several ways. The first was with the church group in the warehouse where we sorted produce before putting in the pantry the foods that were still fresh enough to safely use or bagged potatoes, apples, carrots, onions or other donated produce that came in enormous boxes.
The program I work primarily in has been the NEAT cooking classes as a classroom assistant. Extension provides the educator, there is a volunteer culinary instructor who demonstrates the techniques for each class session and then up to three classroom assistants who help the class run smoothly by doing tasks in the background, prepare the materials that the students take home (including a bag of groceries to prepare the featured recipe of that class session), help the students as needed while they prepare the recipe and help with the clean up.
Other programs include Summer Youth Food Program, Back to School Program, Birthday Bag Program, Holiday Toy Program and Transportation Program. Volunteers are needed for a variety of tasks in each of these programs including verifying the amount on donated gift cards for the Holiday Toy Program.
I have greatly enjoyed working with the NEAT program at VEAP and would encourage anyone looking for a place to volunteer to explore the possibilities that VEAP has. They have opportunities for all ages including jobs both active and seated. Further information about VEAP can be found at veap.org and the volunteer director is Shari DeBlieck(firstname.lastname@example.org)