By Christina Feeney
There are too many people in this world who go without everyday essentials we take for granted. While unfortunately, we can’t change the world immediately tomorrow, there are ways to help out today.
SHIFT scheduled a volunteer opportunity at The Greater Boston Food Bank and helped sort food for families in need. If you live in Boston, you’ve probably seen the building…large modern exterior, red sign on top…you can see it from I-93. Well, I’d seen it too, but this was the first time I’d gone inside.
To be honest, the inside warehouse looks a little like Costco – large crates of packaged food & household goods, lifts and aisles & aisles of shelving. Upon arriving, we were taken into a small room to meet the volunteer coordinator to learn more about our task for the day and why hunger is such an issue in the U.S.
Did you know that in 2005, more than 25 million Americans sought food assistance from The Nation’s Food Bank Network? In that year, more than 320,000 people sought assistance in eastern MA alone. That could be your neighbor, the clerk at the grocery store, your child’s friend, a co-worker or the elderly couple down the street. The signs of hunger can be quite hard to detect, and 52 percent of people at risk in eastern MA live in suburban or rural communities. (Stats source)
The GBFB distributes more than 31 million pounds of food and grocery products annually to approximately 600 member hunger-relief agencies. All of the food donated to the GBFB arrives through various ways – food industry product donations, corporate and group food drives, individual food donations and financial contributions. The majority of the food comes from large grocery stores such as Stop & Shop, Roche Bros., Whole Foods and Shaw’s.
Approximately 85 percent of the food donated to the GBFB comes directly from warehouses and is ready to be distributed to hunger-relief agencies; the other 15 or so percent must be sorted as it comes from more random donations (ex: bins at supermarkets asking for donations from customers, etc). And this was our task – to separate the good from the bad, helping manage the food for distribution.
The SHIFT volunteers were each assigned a food or goods category and placed next to a conveyor belt. When the donated items came down the belt, we’d check items from our category for damage, molding, open packaging or anything else that would make the product unfit to be distributed. If the product looked good, we’d place it in a box until filled. Canned veggies, fruit juice, deodorant, meal replacement bars and much more came down that belt. About one in every four products had to be discarded for the reasons above – really makes you think twice about the condition of the products you’re donating.
We spent a little more than 2 hours at the GBFB and created more than 3,000 meals for those in need. It was really powerful to hear that number and know that such a little bit of time can be such a big help.
A big thanks to my company and the co-workers that organized this opportunity – it was great to take a little time away from work and put life into perspective.
The GBFB is very “volunteer-friendly” and is a great place for a group of friends, employees, or anyone who wants a chance to help out.
For more information regarding The Greater Boston Food Bank and how you can help, please visit http://www.gbfb.org/.