Friday, March 2, 2012

lend a hand at the food bank

food sorting at ACCFB

Last night, dozens of volunteers gathered to lend a hand at the Alameda County Community Food Bank. Before we even started, we were treated to food from The Grilled Cheez Guy, so we had plenty of energy for the work ahead. I've been to the ACCFB for different events like their annual Empty Bowls fundraiser and volunteered there before, but this was the first time I've sorted food.

It turns out sorting food at the food bank is fairly simple. They divided us into several groups: emptying the donation barrels, sorting packaged food, sorting produce, and "shopping" by filling boxes from sorted food. It also turns out that with lots of people, you can sort a lot of food in a short time. In about two hours of work, we sorted about 30,000 pounds of food, including 10,200 pounds of produce.

Alameda County Community Food BankDuring the sorting, we removed food that was expired, in damaged packages, or isn't something that the Food Bank will distribute. Several years ago, the ACCFB became the first major food bank in the U.S. to stop distributing soda. They also added a huge refrigerator to allow them to distribute more fresh produce. Since moving to their facility near the airport, they've increased distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables from a couple hundred thousand pounds per year to over 11 million pounds, with even more expected for 2012.

is this food OK?

If tens of thousands of pounds in one night and millions of pounds each year sounds like a lot of food, it is. That's because there's a huge need. The ACCFB works with 275 member agencies around Alameda county, including soup kitchens, senior centers, after-school programs, and community-based organizations. They serve one in six people in Alameda county through different programs, 43% of them children. Besides food distribution, ACCFB also runs a toll-free food helpline (1-800-870-3663), does community outreach about the food stamp program, provides workshops and nutrition education to clients and member agencies, and does hunger education and advocacy.

You can help, whether by donating money or food, organizing a food drive, or by volunteering. There are various ways to volunteer, and sorting food is only one of them. But it's an easy way to do some good and feel good about what you've done.

The Grilled Cheez Guy

More pictures from the ACCFB.

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