Eleven years ago, when Angel discovered a job listing for a quality assurance coordinator with the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia, he said to himself, “Wow. This is a perfect fit.”
He describes himself as someone who’s always willing help a person in need, so he knew that working at the Foodbank would be a rewarding career. He also understands what it’s like to be in need of food assistance.
When Angel was a young boy growing up in Hoboken, New Jersey, he remembers seeing his father buy a gallon of whole milk. His dad would divide the milk in half and fill the other half with water so that their family would have two gallons of milk instead of one.
He also recalls receiving foods like processed cheese and powdered eggs, items that were commonly distributed by a federal program during the 1980s recession. At first, Angel says he didn’t recognize anything out of the ordinary when it came to their family’s food situation. “But I did feel very uncomfortable when my mom sent me to the store with stamps to buy food,” he remembers.
While Angel was growing up, both his mom and dad worked. “But times were hard,” he says. “Knowing that the assistance was there to help put food on the table and get our family of four through the hump that we were going through—it was a blessing.”
Just as his family received the support they needed, Angel says he appreciates working for an organization that offers solutions to food insecurity. “I was given something,” he says. “I would like to give back.”
In his role as quality assurance coordinator, Angel oversees the inspection of food donated to the Foodbank. He works with volunteers who are trained to inspect items carefully—checking expiration dates, ensuring labels and packaging are intact—to guarantee that foods are of the highest quality to distribute to neighbors in need. Once the foods have passed inspection, Angel works to get the food back out into the community through Partner Agencies’ food pantries and soup kitchens.
The most challenging part of his job, he says, is when donations are down, especially during summer months. “When food is not coming in, it’s not going out. If it’s not going out, the community is not getting fed.”
Though quality assurance is his main role, Angel says that he wears many hats at the Foodbank. “I’m a jack of all trades, master of none,” he chuckles. Some of these additional “hats” include performing maintenance, being a certified forklift operator and implementing hazard training for employees. Soon he will undergo training for a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) certification, which is the internationally recognized risk-based system for managing food safety.
An especially rewarding part of his role is working with volunteers each day who are giving their time to support the Foodbank’s mission. “That just goes to show me that there’s a lot of good people out there,” Angel says. “They don’t need to be here; they choose to be here. As long as we make their volunteer experience meaningful and rewarding, they’ll keep coming back.”
Angel often interacts with individuals from the community receiving services from the Foodbank, especially in the line during the USDA Distribution held on Fridays. One aspect that stands out to him as memorable is when he sometimes witnesses volunteers going through the line at the end of their shift, meaning they’re in need of food assistance but still want to help out however they can to make a difference.
He also takes special notice when he sees military service members and veterans come through the line. “That’s hard for me to grasp—knowing what they’ve gone through and the sacrifices their family goes through … to have someone of that stature to come through the line shows that the need is there,” he says. “It doesn’t matter who you are.”
Angel says Foodbank’s mission resonates with him because he understands the need and knows what a difference it makes to have an organization offering support. “I know what it’s like,” he says. “Knowing that the resource is there to get what you need and what’s necessary to survive—that’s important.”