Did the title of my blog catch your eye? Were you shocked to think that an employed person might visit the food bank?
Who do you think frequents the food bank? If you thought it was only drug users or people “abusing” the system, you like me are out of touch with reality!
My employer, Hub International Insurance Brokers, is a supporter of various community projects through their initiative called “Hub Gives” and again this year, Hub asked employees to volunteer time at a local food bank, then generously gave us paid time off from work while we volunteered! Check out the picture of the amazing group of people I worked alongside on my volunteer day at the Surrey Food Bank!
I remember watching a news story several years ago where people in line for the food bank were interviewed by the media. One man said he was there getting food so he could spend more money on Christmas presents for his children. Previously, I often donated items to the food bank, but that interview completely turned me against the people “abusing” our food banks. From that day forward, I only donated baby items. I told myself I would only help “those that could not help themselves”. What I saw at the food bank the day I volunteered was shocking to me! Contrary to my belief, there were no drug users in the line, just families and employed persons trying to make ends meet.
I also had a picture in my mind of people lining up every day to grab the “freebies” being offered. What I found out is that you must register before you can use the food bank to prove you are in need and you must re-register every six months to prove your continued need. On top of that, you can only come once every two weeks and only on your specified day. The food that is distributed will only last about four (4) days so no one is living high on the hog off the food they receive at the food bank; this is merely a way to try and make ends meet.
If you line up at the Surrey Food Bank, you will pass through an area where you receive a hamper (really a plastic bag filled with various canned goods). Next you go through the bread/pastry area and finally down a line of tables where various vegetables, salads, chips and juices are available, depending on what was donated that week. You must show proof that you are a registered client at each stop along the tables and the amount of food you receive varies depending on the size of your family and the abundance or lack of donations received.
I worked in two areas. First, I was at the food tables in charge of distributing raw parsnips and beets. I didn’t expect to be the least popular stop on the line! If you’re truly hungry, you’ll eat anything, right? That was what I used to believe.
The lady next to me was in charge of heirloom tomatoes and a lot of people had no idea how wonderful those are; they assumed there was something wrong with the tomatoes because they were not perfectly round and smooth. I was totally surprised how many people passed up raw vegetables in favour of the bags of chips and boxes of juice that were offered further down the line!
My second work experience at the food bank was in the area where the hampers were prepared. Depending on the size of your family, you got 1-3 cans each of soup, vegetables, chili-type meals, condiments, protein (in the form of canned tuna, salmon, ham or chicken), boxes of macaroni and cheese and packages of those dry noodles with flavoured sauce.
What really hit me while preparing those hampers was how fortunate I am to be able to choose what groceries I buy! How would you feel if you couldn’t decide what you were going to eat tonight? Yes, it is better than eating nothing, but I was very aware that I would have felt a lack of control.
On the news you sometimes hear about people being abusive to those trying to help them. I did not meet anyone like that; everyone I encountered was friendly, polite and very grateful for the help! The regular volunteers were spectacular as well! Such a compassionate group of people. I saw them treat each and every client as though they were family and friends.
If you follow me on Facebook, you know I am a huge proponent of getting rid of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). A lot of food I saw at the food bank the day I volunteered contained GMOs (like a lot of the food in your local grocery stores). Obviously I would like to see that stop; however, I have conflicting emotions because many people could go without food.
What to do? I would like to encourage people to upgrade the food they donate to the food bank. Going forward, I commit to only donate food that is free of GMOs.
Have you like me ever donated old items from your cupboard? Several volunteers spend their time sorting donations and culling out stale-dated items and cans that are badly dented. I was delighted to learn that no outdated or poor quality food ever reaches the clients.
I hope I live to see the day when there is no longer a need for food banks, but in the meantime, let’s do everything we can to help the working poor feed their families the best possible food!
Perhaps you could donate a bit of time to help out at your local food bank? Christmas is coming. During the holidays, people in need are heavy on our minds. This year, let’s not forget the food banks when Christmas is over. Make it a habit to donate more often and all year round!