Every Thursday, as clients and volunteers arrive to KIPP Northeast Denver Middle School for the No-Cost Grocery Program, Magdalena Zazueta, neighbor and program volunteer, is at the door greeting people, registering names, and unloading tools that will be used to distribute an average of 1,200 pounds of food among three schools.
Due to her demonstrated initiative and natural community building skills, Magdalena was nominated to represent the Far Northeast Denver community as a board member for Denver Food Rescue.
Denver Food Rescue is KIPP Colorado’s partner in providing excess food from grocery stores by delivering it directly to KIPP Northeast Denver Middle School (KNDMS) where volunteers unload, unpack and distribute the food to our families and neighbors at no cost.
In her role, Magdalena will engage the KNDMS No-Cost Grocery Program site with Denver Food Rescue initiatives and will participate in the community feedback program that helps Denver Food Rescue uphold its values for integration of feedback, food security, and health equity across all of its programming.
Magdalena lives in the school’s neighborhood and has been a volunteer at the program for nearly four years. She started participating in the program because of all the fresh fruit and produce it provides. When she noticed that staff members had no help in distributing the food boxes, she decided to help.
“No one would help them,” Magdalena said. “I figured since I was there early I could help speed things up by making myself useful. I consider the food I receive payment for my work.”
Now, with Magdalena’s leadership as a volunteer, KIPP Colorado’s No-Cost Grocery Program is run almost entirely by volunteers.
In addition to KIPP Colorado’s No-Cost Grocery Program, Magdalena volunteers with Metro Caring—another anti-hunger organization in Denver. Since accepting her board member position at the Denver Food Rescue in December, Magdalena has also accepted a position with Metro Caring as a Food Club Leader in the kitchen. She coordinates recipes and food items for their cooking demonstrations.
Magdalena said she never thought her participation in food programs would lead to her leadership development.
“I like knowing that I am reliable enough to ensure the food program can continue to run,” she said. “I took up a commitment to be a volunteer and I will always see it through. My days to volunteer are days that I save for my community.”
If Magdalena’s youngest son gets out of school before she finishes her duties at the food program, he knows he has to wait for her at the library across the street. If there is food leftover after families take their items home, Magdalena loads it all into her van and delivers it to her church, her neighbors, and other food donation locations.
“I love these spaces because of the values they hold,” she said. “There’s no rejection, everyone is dignified no matter what background they are from or what language they speak. I get to learn about different cultures, and I like that these places want to grow based on valuing diversity.”
Having found opportunities beyond what she expected, Magdalena is eager to continue working in the food justice movement.
The No-Cost Grocery Program happens every Thursday from 3 PM – 4:15 PM at KIPP Northeast Denver Middle School. Families can come and fill their boxes with healthy and fresh food to take home free of charge. You do not have to attend a KIPP Colorado school to participate. Click here to see more about the program.