Lindsay Young Lopez, executive director of The Food Bank, touted the benefits of volunteering during a TEDx talk at Columbia City Hall Thursday morning.

“What would you say if I told you can build your resume, improve communication skills, develop a team, experience satisfaction and find joy? How much would that be worth to you?” she asked attendees. “Some programs charge money to provide you with classes or books or online tutorials to gain those benefits. But you don’t have to pay a dime.”

Volunteering, she said, provides all of those benefits while also making a significant difference in the lives of others.

Each month, The Food Bank feeds roughly 104,000 people in a 32-county area and last year distributed more than 31 million pounds of food. 

“Our 57 employees work tirelessly and passionately on behalf of our mission,” she said. “But our fantastic team cannot do this work alone. Fifty-seven people literally cannot run an operation that feeds 104,000 people a month.”

That is where volunteers come in. Last year, The Food Bank welcomed nearly 43,000 volunteers who helped repackage food, label cans, assemble senior boxes and pack Buddy Packs, she said.

During her talk at TEDx Cosmo Park, Lopez also outlined the need for The Food Bank services in the area. In central and northeast Missouri, one is six adults and one in five children face hunger. The Food Bank distributes 7,500 Buddy Packs—bags of kid-friendly nutritious food—to low-income children every week but the need is much greater, she said.

Lopez invited those who felt compelled to do so to join the fight against hunger by volunteering at The Food Bank but encouraged everyone to get involved in something.

“Maybe instead you are passionate about the arts, or animals, or victims of abuse,” she said. “Find what speaks to you and inspires you. Then figure out how you can help. Because every single pair of hands can have an impact.”