What does it mean to be hungry? For some of us it means waiting until the last minute to decide on what we’ll eat for dinner. But in Western Washington, every day 690,000 children, seniors and adults truly don’t know when they’ll have their next nutritious meal.
This is the challenge that the Food Bank at St. Mary’s has been trying to solve since its inception as a food pantry in the early 1940’s. The food bank, located in the Jackson neighborhood in Seattle’s Central District, provides over 6,700 Seattleites a month with groceries.
Several TWIF volunteers, including myself, donated their time last Saturday morning to handing out grocery products at the food bank. We volunteered on the floor of the warehouse, sorting through crates of donated food and handing out hundreds of cans of beans and corn, bags of flour and rice, fresh fruits and vegetables, assorted meats and endless cans of orange soda.
We arrived at 9:15 am and a friendly worker guided us back to the food pantry kitchen. There we met Tina, the Program Manager, who told us we arrived on a good day and provided us with some training related to the task at hand. Our job was simple: hand out groceries to individuals. While we got ready for the doors to open and the crowds to fill the small sorting area in the warehouse, I reminded myself to smile and make sure to offer everyone the items I was responsible for distributing. I loved watching the concentration on the faces of the other TWIF volunteers as they were helping hand out groceries, answering questions or restocking their crates.
It was a rewarding experience to be responsible for helping families or individuals choose which items went into their bag. In a way, we were helping individuals decide what they were going to eat for the next week.
We were pleasantly surprised to hear that during our 15-minute break we would get a lunch that included chicken, rice and lentil curry sauce. The meal was prepared on site by one of the volunteers which made it even more delicious.
Our four hours of work felt like a breeze compared with the support the food bank needs from the community. But at the end of our shift, food bank employees told us that our group had helped accomplish a lot and offered us a bag of groceries, which we gladly accepted.
Prior to leaving, we helped sort through and pack away hundreds of crates full of produce, meats, cheeses and other food items into walk in coolers and freezers. Our overall work required a lot of sorting and packing food products, being able to lift heavy crates and stand for long periods of time.
As we walked out of the food bank, I felt so proud of the work we had accomplished by helping people in our community. Our volunteer experience was fun, inspiring and humbling. It really made us feel fortunate for what we have.
-Alina Aaron is one of TWIF's Event Coordinators and lead the fun on this event