Our very first official volunteer day took us to the Oregon Food Bank, and despite having a blast, we haven't had the opportunity to return until nearly one year later. However, this week we finally managed to gather in North Portland to once again sort food for those in need.
The way our admittedly broken food system tends to work is produce that is "ugly" or "imperfect" is not sold in stores, god forbid you buy a potato that's sprouted or has a bruise. Instead it ends up in the food bank. Here it is sorted into two groups; edible or not. Not edible would be a potato with mold or an orange with broken skin. Edible is pretty much anything you can safely cut off or blemishes that don't harm the food.
The good food is then bagged from its GIANT bin into reasonable bags, which are then distributed by a variety of agencies to the poor and homeless in the Portland area and beyond. In our case, as you may have guessed, we were handling potatoes and oranges (though not at the same time of course). We were sorting them into ~5 lbs bags for Potatoes and ~4lb bags for the oranges.
We happened to arrive on the same day as a giant school bus, so we had a lot of tiny helping hands on this trip. Individually they may have been small, but as a result, in a single shift we managed to sort almost 20,000 pounds of food!
Child labor we approve of
Shift #2 took us into the frozen goods cooler, and while we didn't get a tally on how much got sorted, it was a lot. Frozen food is a lot like the produce area. Goods are sorted into a variety of boxes, such as Red Meat, Poultry, Pork, Pre-Packaged Frozen Goods (Hot Pockets etc), and a sort of "Other" bin that includes things that are prepared like uncooked sausage.
James (Left) may be faking it, but as we can see, Rob (Right) is ready for nap time.
At the end of the day we were tired but in high spirits having enjoyed a good day of exercise and the feeling you get from knowing that you made a difference in someone's life. I think what makes working somewhere like OFB great is that you'll never know who you'll help and they'll never know you. Nobody is doing this to make someone else feel obligated, instead we're doing it simply to help our community, no strings attached. That's a fantastic feeling and we once again invite anyone to join us on our next volunteer event. Just reach out to us on twitter and we'll add you to our special volunteering mailing list!
19,739 pounds of food sorted, if you want to be exact. Not bad for a half-day's work.