December 22, 2009

Food Bank

I blogged a couple weeks ago about an experience I had at Starbucks. In that post I talked a lot about wanting to volunteer and give back this Christmas. Well, I did just that!

My mom, brother and I decided to volunteer at the food bank this last Friday and Saturday. On Friday, all we did was get shipments of food, sort the food into different baskets and bag up the produce. We spent most of our time bagging up oranges, potatoes, apples, pears and onions. This produce came from grocery stores. Once the grocery stores can no longer sell the produce, it is sent to the food bank. All of the produce is still edible, but it doesn't look very appetizing. Although the fruit had dirt on it and brown spots, for someone who really needed the food and was hungry, the food was good enough.

When we got to the food bank on Saturday morning, the employees explained to us how the food bank works. Each family gets a green card and it says how many people are in their family. If the family has less than 2 people on their card, they get one item out of each bin. If the family has 3-5 they get two items out of each bin, and so on. My mom and I were at the produce station. I was in charge of a basket of oranges and then a miscellaneous basket of fruit. Depending on the number of people in the family, they could take one bag of oranges and one bag of miscellaneous fruit. My mom was in charge of potatoes, onions and a miscellaneous basket of vegetables.

I had a lot of expectations of what I thought the food bank would be like. I thought the families were going to be so appreciative and so thankful. Boy was I wrong. For most (not all)of the families, this was a way of life. They came through the line at the food bank like they were on a mission to get the best food and get as much as they could shimmy out of us. We were told to hand out the bags of produce and not to let the families rummage through the bins. I remember on lady came through the line and she had a one on her card, meaning she was the only person in the family. She turned her nose up to all of the fruit I offered her and went on to tell me how gross the fruit looked. What did she expect?! Shes at the food bank! If you are really that poor, I would have thought you would be grateful for ANY food that was offered to you. Just because the oranges have a little dirt on them doesn't mean they are bad, wash them off! Another woman came through the line and tried to hackle everyone for more food. We weren't allowed to hand out more food to people because they wanted to have enough for everyone (there were about 500-600 families that came). Once this woman got her vegetables from my mom, she bent down, opened her bag and stole several bags of green onions out of a basket next to my mom. Another man came through the line and caused quite the commotion because he thought us volunteers stole his reusable bags.

I was shocked. Of the 500-600 people that came through the food bank, I bet less than 20 people said thank you. It was as if we owed them this food. The families seemed a little bitter towards us as well, like that we thought we were better than them, which is so far from the truth. Most of the people were elders or disabled. Several people who came though had on nice designer jeans and designer purses.

I am happy that I was able to give back to my community but I was very shocked by what I saw. I didn't volunteer at the food bank for a pat on the back from the families at the food bank, so I really shouldn't be complaining. Although there were many negatives at the food bank, there were also many positives. There was a young mom and her children who came through the line. My brother was handing out danimal yogurts. The little boys eyes lit up when he saw the danimals yogurt. Its little moments like seeing the little boys eyes light up that made the experience so fulfilling. I was also surprised at a couple mothers who came through the line. I would hand them a bag of apples and they would say 'No thank you, I still have an apple sitting on the counter at home. I'll leave those apple for someone who really needs them'. It was nice to see that some people would only take what they needed and leave the food for someone else who needed the food more than them.

All in all, it was a fulfilling experience and I hope to continue volunteering and giving back to my community.


  1. Thank you for just getting out there and helping. Try to let go of the bad and hold on to the good. Helping out when you can is what's important.

  2. First off, thanks for volunteering.

    I grew up in a neighborhood where food banks and food stamps were pretty widespread. I have stories that would proaly shock you. But you hit the nail on the head - the real issue is that to many that rely on these they have become a entitlement instead of a stop gap.

  3. THANK YOU for volunteering. It is people like you that I look up to for those moments. So many of us don't take the time to do what you do. Thanks again. And yes, focus on the young boys eyes and his pleasure! That is what makes it so worthwhile. Holly

  4. Good for you volunteering. It's amazing what a simple thank you can do. I don't get why more people don't use that word :)