-By Lucy Loughridge, Student at St. Francis Parker
Carmelle Remillard has been a volunteer at Feeding San Diego for 13 years, investing an incredible 630+ hours of time since June of 2012! When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, she began to volunteer an average of three days a week, “There are a lot of people out there that need an extra hand, [and] while our country is rich, there are populations that are really at risk.”
“The type of projects we’ve been doing since March has changed a lot,” Carmelle says. “In January, we were bagging produce and reclamations from the stores, and then the boxes started to hit. I remember going in for my regular 2 to 3-hour shift on a Saturday and found that we had 1,000 boxes that we had to get done that day.”
In order to accommodate the escalation of food insecurity across San Diego County, Feeding San Diego, and its volunteers have adapted their distribution and packaging process to aid a 50% increase in demand. Thousands of people across the county continue to depend on the hard work of Feeding San Diego and volunteers like Carmelle to support their health and that of their families.
“When I learned that 1 out of 8 people in San Diego County face hunger, I was a little bit surprised,” Carmelle says. “It’s a hidden fact, you don’t realize it, but there are a lot of kids who go hungry without eating breakfast and depend on their schools for lunch. I think [this pandemic] has opened the eyes of a lot of people that resources [like Feeding San Diego] exist and that they are available no matter what neighborhood you live in.”
Despite working on the front lines of COVID-19 as her day job, Carmelle has not relaxed her work ethic on the basis of food insecurity. Growing up in a family that highly valued supporting others through the donation of both food and clothes, Carmelle has passed this culture on to her own daughter, who often comes to volunteer with her.
“Volunteering at Feeding San Diego has been a lot of fun,” Carmelle says. “I’ve seen an evolution of the organization over the last 13 years. Instead of dividing bulk products into sharable sizes, we’re packing boxes with a little bit of everything. I have enjoyed that evolution over the years.”
Rather than seeing her volunteer work as a chore, Carmelle and her family have developed a love and appreciation for the work and staff of Feeding San Diego. She emphasized that interacting with the other regular volunteers is one of the highlights of her experience, and what began as a simple act of community service has developed into a passion and newfound dedication to helping those struggling with hunger.
“The biggest message I would like to share with the San Diego community is that people are hungry all the time,” Carmelle says. “I have noticed in the past years that there are a lot of donations that happen around Thanksgiving or Christmas or Easter. But when the pandemic hit I think it really highlighted that these people need the assistance not just during those major holidays—they are always in need.”
Carmelle continues to support those affected by the coronavirus by working on the front lines of the medical field during the day as well as spending her nights and weekends at Feeding San Diego. It is thanks to the amazing network of donors, community partners, food donors, and volunteers like Carmelle that Feeding San Diego is able to fulfill their mission and support those in need through such unprecedented times.