Samaritan House volunteer – Vicky Stein
There are few things in the world as satisfying as feeding people. My favorite memories of my childhood are of the chaos in our kitchen as we finished cooking and sat down at a crowded table, filling ourselves with warm food and good company: I could look around the table at my friends and family and feel proud that I had worked hard to leave everyone healthy, satisfied, and loved. As a result, the Samaritan House Produce Harvest is one of my favorite volunteer activities- it also leaves me with the sense that I’m helping my community create warmth in their own homes.
Not every one of my neighbors is as lucky as I’ve been, to have constant and predictable access to healthy food- junk food is cheaper, faster, and more readily accessible. It doesn’t require special storage like fruits and vegetables do, which makes it simpler to stock up and store both for donors and clients. But the health benefits of produce are clear- high in nutrition and flavor, low in fats and salts and added sugars- and we’ve figured out a way to help people who might not be able to afford grocery store fruits and vegetables benefit from local bounty. When leftover produce from farms isn’t bought by supermarkets, it’s often donated or sold below cost to the Second Harvest Food Bank, which can transport the fragile goods in its refrigerated truck. The Samaritan House, teamed up with Second Harvest Food Bank, distributes the produce to nearly a hundred families on the last Monday of each month, turning potentially wasted food into fresh opportunity.
While the planning of the event seems smooth (the food is picked up and transported, the truck is unloaded, families check in and collect their produce, volunteers help them carry bags to cars and wave goodbye) it often becomes a happy sort of chaos. Volunteers span the ages, from students in school uniforms to retired parents, which means that only some can help with heavy lifting, some speak more languages than others, and some might not have ever cooked the produce they’re giving away. Meanwhile, clients at the event might also speak only one language, which won’t necessarily be English, and may have come with their elderly grandparents and children, who add to the general excitement. Those of us who regularly turn up to help are joined by men from the Worker’s Resource Center, who pitch in with unloading the truck, unfolding tables, and moving heavy boxes into empty spaces so that the handout can continue smoothly. Everyone signs in and pulls on a pair of gloves and, in true neighborly spirit, joins the melee and lends a hand wherever their skills are needed.
At the end of the event, my hands are sweaty inside the latex gloves and my sweater is covered in flecks of onion skin, and I can watch in satisfaction as hundreds of people walk away laden with the fixings to feed their families a healthy and hearty meal.
**This post was written for our Community Connections Blog. There you will find stories, ideas, opinions and other narratives from the people who know Samaritan House the best, the staff and volunteers! you have a story you would like to tell, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.