It’s funny how you can be so exposed to the community programs in your area but still it washes over you and you don’t notice its impact.
I know about the food bank (who doesn’t?) but what I didn’t know was how to help. What sort of food are they looking for? And why? And who uses the food bank anyway?
Once the opportunity to participate in a campaign looking into these very questions arose I knew I had to do it.
The food bank in my city is located on a main road and is well signed. I haven’t been there before but had no trouble finding it.
I thought it would be pretty straightforward to volunteer at the food bank as part of my education but it didn’t work out. My husband volunteers at a food bank but it only operates one day a week, and during the hours I already work.
But I was not deterred. There’s another food bank near me and they’re open five days a week!
…and open only when I’m already at work. So volunteering was out, but I could still donate.
First, since I wasn’t sure what exactly to do, I went on the food bank’s website. I read page after page of ways I could donate (with food, money, or time) and realized the food bank does so much more than hand out food. They run summer sports programs for kids, nutrition programs, and even a dental clinic.
I found a “what to donate” list, but it was from April so I called the office to see if they had any recent updates. From there I built my shopping list and was off!
I wrote my shopping list for what I wanted to pick up for my food bank donation and also my own fridge. I find I can stick to my budget a lot better when I write a list first.
The top items the food bank in my area needs are rice, peanut butter, and protein drinks.
It seemed easy enough but I always seem to make everything more complicated. First I couldn’t find the protein drinks (they were in the pharmacy) but that was child’s play compared to the peanut butter.
Do you know how many types of peanut butter there are?
Which one is right? After a few minutes of pondering I went with regular. The safe choice.
Not only is peanut butter high in protein but it doesn’t require a fridge or a stove. This ensures families without appliances can still have healthy food options in their diets.
I’ve donated items to the food bank before, but I’ve never gone to the store specifically to purchase items to donate. I felt a joy about the whole thing. I think it was because I was being purposeful, not just clearing out my cupboards and ditching the stuff I was never going to eat anyway.
Also I was looking forward to going to the food bank to make the donation. I had arranged to take some photos and had a few questions to ask while I was there. So I prepared my donation and set off.
Here is a sample of the items I brought to the food bank: Chunky soup, Kraft peanut butter, rice, Boost protein drink, instant noodles, canned tuna.
The first thing I saw was a table filled with produce—I was told they are working with several local farms to provide enough fresh fruit and vegetables for everyone. Along with local produce they also provide recipes so people can learn how to prepare items they may not have tried before. (Great idea!)
The back store room was filled with cans of food organized and stacked by type. A volunteer showed me how the hampers were packed and why it was important for them to be well-balanced and health-promoting.
I learned there are about 9,000 people (this number includes families) in my area who make use of the food bank, and in the summertime their need increases somewhat because children are out of school and don’t have meal programs in place.
When I phoned to ask what the critical needs were I was told the food bank was completely out of rice. They weren’t exaggerating!
My visit to the food bank was short but I learned a lot. For instance I knew people used the food bank but I did not know it was 9,000. And I did not know how much the food bank adds to a community with programs, education, and community support.
Spending my lunch break at the food bank is one of the most memorable half hours I’ve had in ages. I can’t wait to donate again!