Boeing teams with Northwest Harvest to nourish children over holiday break

Healthy food rather than homework fills holiday backpacks

December 09, 2014 in Our Community

Decked out in a blue volunteer T-shirt, his hands flying above a conveyor belt, Rick Roennau said he couldn’t be happier to follow up a full day of work as a toolmaker at Commercial Airplanes’ Renton, Wash., site by pitching in at the Northwest Harvest warehouse a few miles away in Kent.

“I feel blessed to have a job,” he said. “And I want to share with others.”

This particular evening, Roennau was joined by more than 40 other Boeing volunteers. Together, they formed an efficient assembly line, packing nearly 1,000 backpacks full of food for low-income children to bring home to help feed their families.

“I have kids,” Roennau said as he stuffed canned chicken, fruit and other healthy food into the colorful backpacks. “So helping other children is important to me.”

Photo caption: Boeing employees volunteering to help feed children form a streamlined team as they move backpacks filled with food along the Northwest Harvest food bank's conveyor belt.

Jim Anderson photo

The food packaged by the Boeing volunteers represents a new extension to the Three Squares backpack program run by Northwest Harvest. Normally, the nonprofit food bank program sends kids home with nutritious, easy-to-prepare, single-serving food to help them through the weekends. But when Boeing learned there was no funding to send larger backpacks home over the two-week winter break, a new contribution was made to extend the program. The volunteers made sure food purchased by the additional funding would get to 6,500 kids in time.

“I just don’t want others to go hungry,” said volunteer Theresa Ast, who works in 737 Business Operations. “I feel fortunate to have food on my table when others go without.”

Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner agrees, which is why he made certain the contribution was made in time to help children this holiday season.

Working as a volunteer at Northwest Harvest, Boeing employee Rick Roennau separates juice boxes in preparation for packing.

Jim Anderson photo

“Boeing is committed to giving back to the communities where our employees live and work,” Conner said. “We feel honored to be able to help Northwest Harvest fill this gap in services for low-income students who rely on school and summer meal programs and often have a tough time during these longer school breaks. No child should go hungry, especially during the holidays.”

Shelley Rotondo, CEO of Northwest Harvest, said she is thrilled that Boeing and its employees are making a real difference.

“I’m so delighted that thanks to The Boeing Company, Northwest Harvest and its partners, this holiday season so many children can now wonder about what’s under the tree instead of what there is to eat,” Rotondo said.

By Deborah Feldman