KFB Volunteer of the Week: Melissa Gaudette

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Volunteers at Kids’ Food Basket fuel our mission each day through planting, harvesting, prepping, packing and delivering nourishing food. They drive our success and help all children thrive. Our volunteers on the Farm give their time and talents to help us grow beautiful, healthy, and life-affirming vegetables and fruits. We are so grateful to every single volunteer that engages with us as we would not be able to nourish children to reach their full potential if it wasn’t for their generosity and compassion for their community and neighbors.

Name: Melissa Gaudette
KFB Volunteer Experience: On the Farm
Occupation: Yoga Teacher

How did you first hear about Kids’ Food Basket?
I serve a family though MomsBloom, which is an organization that serves families with newborn babies. This family currently gets the Sack Suppers from Kids’ Food Basket, that is how I heard of KFB. I also came to the opening event when the 1300 Plymouth building opened in Grand Rapids. I had wanted to get involved because my educational background is recreational therapy. The farming with kids, if that ever happens again, is where I would really love to help with someday. Working with kids really appeals to me. But now that I am kind of plugged in with KFB, I care about you guys so much more! Now I bring my next-door neighbor to volunteer with me.

Why did you choose to volunteer? How long have you been volunteering?
All of the places that I teach yoga are closed, so I decided to fill my time volunteering. I teach a couple of Zoom yoga classes where I ask for donations and then I share those donations with Kids’ Food Basket. I had so much free time and I love to garden, and I miss people. KFB was such a nice fit for me. I love to volunteer on the Farm early in the morning before it gets too hot, so it’s a win-win!

I started in June and I plan on volunteering on the Farm through July. It has been great! I have met some really nice people. The staff is amazing. Like Steph M, the family and school engagement coordinator, will come up to me and ask me a random question like “what would you rather ride? A donkey or a giraffe?” It gets us laughing and interacting, it’s great.

What is your favorite part about volunteering with Kids’ Food Basket?
It’s all my favorite part. I love being out in nature. I love being out in the mornings before it gets too hot and hectic. I love the people, the staff and the other volunteers. We all have a common goal and a common attitude. Like I said I can’t say enough about the staff, Farmer Jason is just amazing. He is so good about telling us why we are doing things and where the food is going. That usually is the question I hear the most when all the volunteers are talking – where does this food go – and Jason tells us, it is really educational.

Do you have a favorite Kids’ Food Basket memory?
One day sticks in my mind, because I locked my keys in my car. My car was on auto-lock. How it got on auto-lock, I have no clue! I was waiting for my neighbor to come pick me up. Jason got me some water, got me a chair and asked me if I needed a ride, but by that time my ride was already on the way. Everyone has great hearts here. I can tell it is a family atmosphere here. Every staff member that I have come in contact with has been amazing.

Another story I have is that it kills me when we chop the milkweed out of the fields because it is for the butterflies. I said to Steph M. that if we were just going to chop it out, that I wanted to take some home. She went and got me some plastic grocery bags to put them in, helped me dig them out and gave them some water. Then I took them home and now I have milkweed with little tiny caterpillars on them that will turn into butterflies.

Describe your experience with Kids’ Food Basket in one word?

Why do you think someone should sign up and volunteer with Kids’ Food Basket?
I have always been really passionate with my children about where our food comes from and them seeing that. I think that today, all of these young kids, like high school kids, my guess is that a lot of them have never seen where their food comes from. It does not have to come from a shelf in a grocery store. And it does not have to be sprayed with all kinds of stuff. I have always gardened organically. I think it is really important for kids who come here to the Kids’ Food Basket Farm on field trips and for kids who volunteer to get that education on organic farming because they are the ones who have to carry that on.

What is one thing you learned while you were volunteering?
I have learned how to tear a piece of kale off the plant without tearing the whole plant up. Which I have also done. I was gardening near Jason one day and he was telling me all about how he has been organic farming on his own for a long time and telling me about the highs and lows of organic farming and all of it is so interesting. The relationship between the beneficial insects that are out there and the plants, I just find that whole ecosystem to be really amazing. I learned a lot from Jason that day. It is obvious that he is passionate about farming.

Favorite fruit or vegetable and way to eat it?
I like them all. I like fresh-picked strawberries and I like root vegetables. I like beets, I am probably one of the few people who likes beets. I use the greens from my CSA in my smoothies. I use the whole plant, no waste.

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