Hi! My name is Katie, and I’m on the volunteer committee at Improvements. On May 24, 2018, five Improvements employees, including myself, spent the afternoon volunteering at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. None of us were sure what to expect, but we were excited to help out in any way that we could. After all, Improvements Cares, so keep reading to learn about our satisfying volunteer experience.
What We Learned from Volunteering at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank
When we first arrived, we were impressed by the building. After all, it’s a large, new, modern facility. We met with the volunteer coordinator who showed us a short video explaining what the Greater Cleveland Food Bank provides to the community. It was awe-inspiring. Here are a few things we learned:
- Hunger will impact 330,000 people in Northeast Ohio this year.
- One in four children struggles with food insecurity (meaning they may not know where their next meal will come from).
- The food bank distributed enough food to provide nearly 56 million meals last year.
- Distribution not possible without the nearly 18,000 volunteers providing close to 83,000 hours.
The Greater Cleveland Food Bank has three key initiatives:
- Close the Meal Gap (58 million meals by year’s end).
- Connect with those that need the most help: children, elderly, and sick.
- Address the causes of hunger: employment, housing, and healthcare.
Sorting Through Food and Building Food Boxes
Our first job wasn’t too glamorous, but important, nonetheless. We had to sort through about 40 boxes of frozen meats to make sure they were in good condition for the people that would be receiving them. Alan, our volunteer coordinator, explained how important it is for people to receive perishable food in addition to non-perishable goods.
Giant Eagle, a local grocery store, donated nice cuts of beef, pork, and chicken. We had to make sure the expiration date was no later than six months, and that the packaging was intact and the meat was not discolored. We only had to discard about 2% of the frozen meats we inspected. That meant lots of healthy meat and poultry for people in the community.
For our second job, we headed to another part of the warehouse where they stored the non-perishable food. We were impressed to see rows upon rows of tall shelving holding thousands of canned and boxed food.
Past that was an area near the loading docks where they had brought out boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables which we were to place into partially filled boxes. Already in each box were two loaves of bread, a bag of apples, small sweet peppers, sweet potatoes, and onions. To that box, we added three cucumbers, a large head of cabbage, a 10-pound bag of potatoes, and two cantaloupes. What an impressive box of fresh food!
As we were filling the boxes (and there were probably a few hundred of them), other volunteers joined us, including high school kids. It was nice to see teenagers actively involved in helping out their community. After we filled about half of the boxes, it was time to deliver them to the people that lined up for the donation. We walked with them to their cars and loaded them up. Needless to say, it was humbling.
Volunteering at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank Was a Moving Experience
At the end of the day, it gave me a warm feeling to know that so many families were receiving so much healthy and fresh food. The Greater Cleveland Food Bank also gave me a greater understanding of how many people in my area are food insecure and how much the food bank does to help eradicate hunger. In light of this, please donate food or volunteer with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank or even a food pantry. Finally, you may consider organizing a group of volunteers through your child’s high school, your employer, or your family.