Serving as Food Bank of the Rockies’ Mobile Pantries Representative is a full-circle experience for Kate Budd. “I have relatives who benefitted from food banks in southern Texas growing up,” she explains. “I’m adopted, and my family’s whole mantra is that talent is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not. When you have the opportunity to create opportunity, it’s important that you do. I was lucky enough to find interest and passion in nonprofit work.”
Kate grew up in Dallas and recognized from a young age that her life trajectory could have looked completely different. Her parents instilled in her the importance of approaching their family’s position of privilege with humility. That, in combination with her natural inclination to approach issues with logic and her passion for working with people, influenced Kate’s decision to pursue a degree in Human Rights with a minor in Public Policy.
Before moving to Denver in January of 2020 to work at the Food Bank, Kate was working at the West Texas Food Bank assisting with their mobile pantry and older adult programs, as well as with setting up new pantries. While her interest in nonprofits didn’t originally focus on food security, several factors ended up steering her in that direction.
“Growing up, I volunteered at the North Texas Food Bank, and that really impacted me,” she says. “Everyone in my family is a lawyer, but they’re all incredibly supportive of me working in nonprofits. Working for food banks ended up being a deep connection for me because of my relatives’ experience, and I always think about how, in my job, I might help a kid who ends up being like them. It adds a lot of self-motivation.”
In addition to coordinating the Mobile Pantries program, Kate is also in charge of ordering the food that each of the 70-plus sites distributes across Colorado and Wyoming. This includes sourcing items to complement the food boxes provided by the federal government via The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), which include various protein options, grains, fresh produce, canned goods, dairy, eggs, and snacks, all of which are provided at no cost.
“If I see that a TEFAP box has peanut butter, I’ll order jelly. Or if it has soup, I’ll make sure to add saltine crackers—that sort of thing,” she says.
She also looks up recipes, uses the information gathered via Link2Feed, Food Bank of the Rockies’ client intake software, and seeks input from site coordinators to figure out the specific needs of each community. “It is my goal to empower our volunteer site coordinators and show our clients respect by creating well-rounded, thoughtful processes and food options,” she says.
To do this, Kate also coordinates with the Food Bank’s Culturally Responsive Food Initiative program to tailor her Mobile Pantry orders. “I evaluate the nationalities and ages of the clients, what time of year it is, and where they live,” she explains. “For Mobile Pantry sites serving older adults, I’ll look for easy-to-open canned goods; for rural communities, I seek out ‘stretch items’ such as rice, lentils, and frozen proteins; for college campuses, I source quick, easy, microwavable options.
“I like to think that each site has a boutique feel, in a way,” Kate continues. “Being able to tailor the offerings of each site reflects how Food Bank of the Rockies is growing without losing sight of our mission. We are building relationships and adding resources. It’s a two-way conversation.”
It’s also a way to provide clients with dignity. Before COVID-19, Mobile Pantries operated on a Client Choice, or “shop for what you want,” model. When the pandemic hit, all distributions switched to drive-through models. To preserve the dignity that comes with selecting one’s own food items, the Food Bank began surveying clients to find out what they’d like to receive in addition to items provided by such programs as TEFAP, CSFP, CACFP (Child and Adult Care Food Program), and SFSP (Summer Food Service Program). The switch has added an additional layer of intentionality to the pantries.
“We were able to find foods that align with clients’ tastes, and it helped us learn a lot about the communities we serve,” Kate says. “Imagine coming here from another country: Everything is completely different, and, on top of that, you’re not able to feed your family. But then you go to a Food Bank distribution and you see familiar food items. I just love that.”
“It’s important to create an experience that feels mutually beneficial, and to create an atmosphere that lets clients know they are our constituents, not charity,” she continues. “It’s such a missed opportunity if we don’t get to know someone or try to make them feel at home. We need to normalize asking for help, because everyone needs help.”
Learn more about volunteering at a Mobile Pantry in your community, or consider donating to Food Bank of the Rockies. Every hour and every dollar helps us reach our mission of ending hunger. Thank you for your support.