Earlier this month (on 10/24), I went to Food Lifeline to volunteer during a Community Volunteer Night. I think I've come to realize that in my vision of a perfect world, everybody's cupboards would be stocked full of nutritious food, and Starbucks coffee. Food Lifeline had recently received a donation of 60,000 pounds of honey crisp apples, all from a grower in Eastern Washington. They were trucked to Food Lifeline, and needed to be sorted (rotten apples had to be tossed, obviously) and then re-packed into smaller 40 pound boxes for distribution to food banks and food centers all over Western Washington. The apples were perfectly edible, and most of them looked like they were in great condition. I really wanted to take a handful home with me, but obviously I didn't do that. These apples primarily had two things wrong with them, making them unsellable in grocery stores. First off, a very large number of the apples had an odd pattern of mottled spots on them. The spots were caused by a hail storm! You can kind of see what I mean in this photo:
Secondly, some of the apples were over-sized. It turns out that for grocery stores to sell apples, they really want them to be a certain size, and not too large or too small. Between the spots, and some of them being too large, they were considered unsellable. These are not your Whole Foods apples. However, they're still a perfectly wonderful, nutritious snack!
All together, it appeared that about 25 people volunteered on this night. It was a wide mix of people who all came together just wanting to do some good. One small group assembled the cardboard boxes. I was paired with two others and we sorted apples, tossing out spoiled ones, and putting them into the boxes. We weighed each smaller box to make sure that it did not exceed 40 pounds. And when we finished a big crate of apples, Ben, a Food Lifeline employee, brought yet another crate. It was a lot of apples! Volunteers that night packaged 15,480 pounds of apples!
The boxes of apples were placed on a conveyor belt, and a team at that end of the conveyor belt, neatly stacked the 40 pound boxes of apples.
If you are looking for a volunteer project for a group, Food Lifeline is really an excellent idea. I know that I have heard stories of a groups of Starbucks partners in my area working together on volunteering projects such as this one. I recall that recently I talked to one downtown Seattle ASM, who mentioned that she'd gone with a number of partners in her district to Northwest Harvest and done the same sort of thing. (Starbucks calls their employees "partners.")
You can read about some of my other volunteering experiences with Food Lifeline by browsing through the Food Lifeline category on this site.
I hope that everyone reading this makes a commitment to donate a few hours of their time each month!
On a different topic, I have a coffee giveaway going on, and you can still enter. The comments in the coffee giveaway blog article are fabulous to read through.