Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Distributing food at the food bank

I volunteered to work at the Community Harvest Food Bank for their Saturday free food distribution this past Saturday (9/22). It was my first time doing this. I had 2 people from church and another friend not from our church who joined me (it was supposed to be 3 from church, but Joan couldn't make it at the last minute). Anyway, there were PLENTY of volunteers (maybe too many).

We arrived at the food bank at 8:30 am, and there was already a long line of people waiting to get in. The distribution is from 9-11 am. So we went in the blue volunteer door and there were quite a few people already there. A guy named Andy soon came over and explained things to us. They had big pallets of food items lined up, and a couple people were supposed to stand in front of each item and pass them out as people came by. We weren't supposed to allow them to be picky - they either wanted the item you had in your hands or they didn't - there was to be no bartering or wanting a different one. The line needed to keep moving if we were going to get everyone through in 2 hours. Last week they served over 600 families. I heard it was over 500 on this day.

They had quite a few items on this particular day: chips and other snack foods, potatoes, watermelons, apples, oranges, sweet corn, bagged salads, dressing, other various fruits and vegetables, bread, and... some other things I can't remember. I got in front of a line of pallets that had bananas, oranges, apples, and spaghetti squash mostly.

Pretty soon they opened the doors, and apparently they let people in in waves. And there was just person after person with a bag, or laundry basket, or cart, or pull wagon, coming through and getting stuff. Many people had their children who also had baskets, but they were told that they weren't to bring children to help anymore - it slowed things down too much. Many people appeared to be Burmese refugees (of which Fort Wayne has a lot of), but there was a wide variety of people. Most did look pretty needy, however I heard there were some people who arrived in Lexus's and whatnot. Whatever. It's not my job to judge; I was just handing out food that someone had donated.

We probably had 5 or 6 pallets of boxes stacked up with a variety of fruits and vegetables in them. And we ran out of stuff. So I eventually started helping pass out sweet corn in the row next to me. I would also take empty boxes and flatten them from the chip aisle. I heard this was an unusual variety of food today from some of the more experienced volunteers. They said sometimes all they have is junk food (chips and things). So people were pretty excited today. It was kind of sad watching some of them try to carry watermelons and a bag of potatoes and a pile of other stuff. It was also interesting how some people were quite picky, but some - those who looked the most needy probably - were very happy to take anything anyone would give them. Everyone was quite nice, and almost everyone said "thank you."

Things wrapped up around 11:20, I suppose. It ends at 11 am, but if anyone is still in line they let them go through. So we probably left about 11:30. It was a quite good day. It was nice working with a nice group of volunteers, and meeting lots of nice folks along the way.

We were with the HOPE Ministries group, and it was set up by Shalimar. She had several people from her church, those from my church, and ZUM had several adults and a whole bunch of youth. I also worked with a girl volunteering from a funeral home and a teenage boy from a high school. I think they were together.

At any rate, it was a good day (I guess I already said that). I would like to have our church do this some day. I guess you call the office and give them a few dates to choose from, and there is a minimum number of volunteers you need to supply. Shalimar said they do it probably 3 or 4 times a year.