Ever wonder what it would be like to spend a day volunteering at a local food bank? Giving of your time packing and loading food boxes? Or what it is to be loading shopping carts, portable carts, and backpacks with food?

Have you ever wondered what it is like to be the recipient of that food? I got answers to these questions recently as I spent a day working in a food bank in my community.

Sometimes Guilt is a Good Thing

I have been feeling rather uncomfortable lately, guilt-ridden really, about my lack of involvement in the community. Anyone can donate money to worthwhile causes. But a lot of programs, charities, and non-profits need volunteers who can donate time and muscle. So, I decided to do my part to address food inequity, a great concern of mine.

Pamela Lynn

I spent a day with a group of people who would probably never be in the same room together for any reason but this. There were several local pastors, people doing court-ordered community service work and other volunteers from various walks of life.

Standing together, yet socially distanced, I was working alongside Alexis Soberanis, wife and administrative sidekick of the Rev. Harrison Soberanis, founder of Dream Builders, Inc.Their non-profit hosts the Wednesday/Saturday Food Bank in the heart of Sulphur Springs, a neighborhood in Tampa, Florida.

Pamela Lynn

A food desert 

“We come to the Springs because it is somewhat of a food desert. There are so many folks with no vehicles, there is only one local big store, just all these convenience stores with high prices and no fresh produce,” said Alexis Soberanis.

The day began at 5 a.m. in a warehouse by the Port of Tampa. Three local non-profits rent the space to house the donations that are brought in daily. At first glance, the sheer volume of supplies had me in awe. There were boxes on top of boxes, stack 6- to 8-feet high full of canned food, produce, hygiene products and water. Pallets were loaded with plastic grates of milk gallons and thermal boxes filled with yogurts and cheese.

Pamela Lynn

Each volunteer had their own task. Mine was to walk the lined aisles to select food items for distribution boxes. When boxes were complete, I closed the tops and hauled them to the loading dock. There, volunteers loaded them into the semi-trailer. This work continued until 1,200 food boxes were ready to be delivered to people in need at food banks.

Following closely behind were vehicles loaded with the volunteers who would meet some of the recipients of the food boxes.

Pamela Lynn

By 9 a.m. the empty lot next to the Sulphur Springs Park & Pool was full of people and cars. The cars were lined up for several blocks and in anticipation, some drivers already had their trunks open. Some neighborhood locals had ridden their bikes and had backpacks to stuff with the food from the boxes. Others walked with personal shopping carts and grocery carts procured from markets miles away.

Pamela Lynn

Everyone waited patiently for the truck to be unloaded.

As some of the volunteers set up the tables with masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers, others helped unload the semi, a few directed traffic and reminded drivers to open their trunks, drive slow, and “have a great day,” as they distributed food boxes.

Worth the wait

Pamela Lynn

Vehicles move slowly to the loading area as the boxes were stacked into trunks, backseats, and shopping carts. Reverend Harrison stood between the two lines of cars and as he closed their door or trunk, he reminded each occupant, “We will be here on Wednesday. Don’t forget. God bless.”

I won’t be there on Wednesday, but I will be back. In fact, I can see a future of Saturdays spent the exact same way. 

If you want to know more about food banks check out this article.