Volunteer Spotlight: Rodney Tanamachi Retires to a New ‘Career’ in Food Banking

The former cyber security analyst and Volunteer Kernel has given over 800 hours to the North Texas Food Bank in just a few years.

If Rodney Tanamachi ever feels tired while completing a pack and box shift at the North Texas Food Bank, he needs only to think about the neighbor who wrapped him in a big hug after he gave her a box of groceries during a mobile pantry distribution.

“She drove up and hugged me and she said, ‘Without this, I would not know where my next meal was coming from, but with this I have enough to last my family the next three days,’” he recalled. “That kind of drove it home for me.”

A Volunteer Kernel at NTFB, Tanamachi knew he wanted to spend much of his free time volunteering once he retired, so he started researching his options six months before his final day in cyber security at Blue Cross Blue Shield. His church runs a pantry that is a partner of the Food Bank, and after Rodney completed a few shifts in the Perot Family Campus warehouse, he says he’d found his new passion.

“I fell in love with it, and this became my occupation after retiring,” he says.

Rodney now volunteers for an average of three pack and box shifts in the warehouse each week plus an average of three mobile pantry distributions where he’s able to help pass out the boxes of food that are packed in the warehouse.

“I just kind of flow like mercury—wherever the need is, I’ll go,” he says.

Growing up in a Japanese family after World War II, Rodney says his parents instilled the importance of giving back early.

“My mom was a strong Christian with strong values, and she was always giving and that kind of melded into my being,” he says.

Rodney’s dad was a farmer, raising cotton and wheat in the Rio Grande Valley. He wanted Rodney and his brothers to attend college and find careers outside the farm. “Given our upbringing and situation, I feel so blessed that I feel compelled to pay it forward,” Rodney says. “That is really the theme of my life right now, and the Food Bank is a big piece of that.”

Rodney began volunteering regularly at NTFB in November 2022 and became a Kernel, which is a volunteer leader who regularly gives time to the Food Bank, just a few months later. Since then, he’s given more than 800 hours.

Until becoming a part of the Food Bank, Rodney says he wasn’t aware of the great need for food assistance in North Texas. But after seeing 200 to 400 cars line up for each mobile distribution, he understands. Indeed, close to 640,000 North Texans face hunger, and the 13-county area served by the NTFB has the fourth-highest rate of food insecure people in the nation.

Rodney says he’s grateful to be a small part of the solution. “I love doing this,” he says.

Kathleen Petty is communications manager for the North Texas Food Bank.