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Food Bank Volunteer Project by Ryan Brandt

Food Bank Volunteer Project

(Raleigh, NC – March 2011)

Ryan Brandt

On March 30, 2011, my mother and I volunteered at the local food bank in Raleigh, North Carolina. Prior to the date, I had thought that we would get there and the workers there would direct us to work emotionlessly and formally go through and inform us on how to do the work they had in mind. I had never volunteered for an organization like this before, so I had no idea what to expect. Fortunately for me, the staff at the food bank was exceedingly friendly and very appreciative for the help that they got. When I first walked in, the enormous size of the warehouse amazed me – this I had not expected. Immediately, a kind man signed us in and we waited for several minutes while other volunteers arrived (mostly college students). When the volunteering was set to begin, the kind man (from before) explained the food bank itself, its sources of the food collected, where that food goes, and what we would be doing.

As it turns out, this single food bank (last year) gave away over four million pounds of food to people who needed it. This location only has about sixteen staff members total! In fact, only about 75 people come and volunteer on a regular basis. Overall, (last year) the food bank had about 160,000 hours of volunteers help out! I learned that the food that is in the bank comes from farmers, food drives, and donations from local restaurants/grocery stores. Contrary to my previous beliefs, the food in the food bank actually goes to soup kitchens, organizations similar to the Durham Rescue Mission, charities/relief efforts for disaster stricken families, and more rather than just to families who lined up at the food bank’s door. Now back to my visit…

After a brief walk across the warehouse, we stopped in front of several large containers holding potatoes – our job was to sort through them, throw away the bad ones, and put the good ones into bags to be stored in the bank itself (to be eventually distributed). My mother and I were confused and uncomfortable with the process at first, but after several scores of minutes, we got the hang of it. Our container we had to sort through was about seven feet in diameter and five feet high – filled to the brim with potatoes! By the time our two hours of volunteering was up, the potatoes were down to our knees. Helping us accomplish this were four other people – two college students and a family like us (mother and son). The volunteering did seem bland at first (all were silent), but soon, we started making conversations with each other. My fellow potato-sorters were friendly and helpful (when my job was confusing, I asked them for help). We talked about our lives, the other peoples’ history in volunteering, and what we planned to do in the future. The two hours flew by, and I learned about the community in the process.

From this experience, I not only learned about the food bank and how to volunteer – I also learned about the community and how to more easily make conversations with other people. By talking to many people, I was able to improve my communications skills and further understand the lives of others. From the knowledge the workers at the food bank gave me, I was also able to comprehend the hardships and struggles of those less fortunate than us. The friendly people at the food bank surprised me (to be honest, I was nervous at first due to the daunting appearance of the warehouse itself). Overall, my volunteering at this food bank was a great experience for me, as it helped me in a variety of ways.

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