Saturday, January 27, 2007

Volunteering at the food bank

This morning Musty and I got up early and went to our local food bank to volunteer. We hadn't ever done it before, and it was a really fun experience. There was a big group of people and the coordinators were extremely organized. Basically, we loaded up bags with food donated from suppliers, tied them shut, and stacked them into giant crates (60 bags/crate). In all, we filled about 1500 bags in 2 hours! Many hands make light work.

Our local food bank is a really great organization, and each year on Thanksgiving I teach a big yoga class to collect money for them. This last time we raised over $800!! But I hadn't ever done such "hands on" volunteering and really enjoyed it. The experience also brought a lot of thoughts to mind.

One of the things I was interested in was seeing what sort of food would be in the bags. It was a mix of healthy and so-so: 2 bags of split peas, 2 bags of white rice, a soymilk-sized box of dairy milk, a can of beef stew, a can of sweet potatoes in syrup, a can of cranberry cocktail concentrate... and some other things I was too busy to take note of. It made me think about how priveledged I am to choose so precisely what type of food I like to eat (vegan, organic, local, seasonal, whole grain, etc)... Obviously I can be flexible, but a lot of times I find that I would rather be hungry than eat something I won't feel good about later (physically or spirtually). But this is because I know I won't be hungry for long. It was very touching to learn about how many people (43,000) our food bank serves - and what percent of them are children (45%). : ( There was also a statistic about how many parents skip meals so that their kids can eat.

It was really a nice feeling to help out, and we've signed up to do it again.

Another thing that made it so fun was all the nice people there volunteering with us. On the "assembly line" with us was a big, friendly group of people from the Santa Cruz Kiwanis club. It's similar to Rotary I think - a group of people doing fundraisers and such, 100% of the proceeds go to scholarships and presents for needy kids at Christmas... stuff like that. They were super nice people, mostly older, and Musty and I both really enjoyed meeting some people of a different generation and perspective. Their upcoming event is a big "crab and pasta feed" - and they eagerly wanted to sell us tickets. I was a bit sorry to tell them that I was veg and Musty is allergic to crab.

We were thinking it might be neat to check out the Kiwanis club... such nice causes they work for. But then, do I really want to help organize a giant crab and meat-sauce feed? Hm. Maybe I could just bow out on that one. I said to Musty, "Who goes to a giant crab feed??!!" and he said "what do you mean? Everyone goes." Sigh... I think I was living in VeganWorld for a moment there.

Part of me thinks, "oh it would be neat to form a group of veg*ns and make our own fundraising bake sales and vegan-feeds and vegan pancake breakfasts to raise money for scholarships and needy children!" But, another part of me thinks that it's really refreshing and interesting and important to meet differently-minded and oriented people, instead of always just hanging out with like-minded people. Hmmm.

Tomorrow I'll blog about our (non-crab) dinner, which was great!


  1. That's wonderful you donated your time to help out at the food bank :) How cool you raised over $800 at Thanksgiving with your yoga class. WTG!!!

  2. Here in Chicago, J and I live in one of the most economically diverse neighborhoods in the country - literally, there are multi-million dollar mansions a couple blocks away from what used to be a very notorious housing project (Cabrini-Green). So you would think that these issues would be at the forefront of my mind, but it's still so easy to ignore poverty and hunger from a place of such privilege. Your post really inspires me to get more involved, yet I'm with you - I don't like the thought of feeding people animal products to raise money. There needs to be a vegan organization to address the needs of the community!

    The saddest thing about hunger is that it could easily be prevented if more people switched to a vegan diet. Vegan staples - grains and beans - are cheap to buy and much cheaper to grow than animal products.

    Thanks for the food for thought!

  3. P.S. In response to what you said on my blog, I too live in Veganworld in my head. I think I also live in "healthfoodworld" - I get quite a shock when I go into a "normal" grocery store and read some of the labels...yikes! But I've typed enough - I need to shut up now! :)

  4. What a thought-provoking post, Amey! First, kudos to you and Musty for volunteering. Here in Syracuse, we often do things like that, and it's always a positive experience- sometimes the real world/veganworld clash is needed to give you perspective, and even to make you stronger in your beliefs! In my heart of hearts, I know that eating healthy, organic and seasonal (and veg) is *cheaper* in the long run (environmentally, health care, etc.) but I also see first-hand people who are simply too poor to have that be a priority.
    Fortunately, there are a few vegan food bank type programs, and I think they're quite successful! Wouldn't it be cool if you did open one in S.C.?... You could coordinate events with the other groups, so you'd still be in touch and reach the greatest number of people in need as possible...
    Ok, I've also written too much!

  5. Lots of good thoughts in this post. I completely agree that it is a good idea to make sure to spend time with people with other perspectives. Especially when you live some place like Santa Cruz or Berkeley, it is so easy to create a perfect little world where one is surrounded by like-minded people. The past couple of years I have both consciously and accidentally been in a number of social situations with people have very different perspectives and life experiences. I have learned a ton, and I feel like I have more compassion and understanding for people with different views.

    In terms of food relief groups -- I think there might be a Food Not Bombs groups in Santa Cruz; FNB as you may know gets donations of food and cooks all vegan meals. I think most FNB groups set up in parks and primarily feed the homeless. I am not sure I know of any vegan food bank in the Bay Area, though it seems surprising that there isn't something of this sort.

  6. Anonymous3:40 PM

    Perhaps you could join the Kiwanis and convince them to have a "crab and vegan pasta feed." Or maybe just a pasta feed. I don't know though - lots of older people tend to get very set in their ways. FNB is a great idea! I wish they had one here.

  7. That's great that you took the time to volunteer. I used to deliver meals once a month but somehow got out of the habit. It's definitely something everyone should do at least once as a reminder of how fortunate we are.

  8. Thanks for helping our world become a better place! Really, it's easy to forget that there are lots of people out there living on the edge, even in what I would have thought of as a prosperous area. Thanks for reminding me.

  9. Rock on! That's awesome what you did. I really want to offer my time and services more this year. Excellent work!

  10. Awesome... I love volunteering at our food bank. We are definitely privileged to be able to choose our food preferences, when there are people who will eat anything they can get. It feels good to help out.


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