It’s September, when school is well under way, and individuals celebrate the last official summer holiday by throwing things on the grill and flooding retail stores. It’s the last hoorah for everyone before the fall months come. Parents get back in the routine of dropping off and picking up the kids from school and perhaps start to think about designing Halloween costumes, PTA meetings and figuring out how to pass off hand me downs to dismayed younger siblings. At least I think this is what parents do, that’s what always happens on TV shows anyways.
Aside from the hustle and bustle of returning to a busy routine after the lazy summer months, September at the Regional Food Bank means it is Hunger Action Month. Hunger Action Month is a nationwide event that is meant to inform and mobilize the public about the issue of hunger. It encourages individuals to take an initiative to fight hunger. Wanting to take part in this initiative, I decided to participate in one of the activities by volunteering on a Thursday night, which is the Rock n’ Box open volunteer night. Rock n’ Box is meant to be a volunteer opportunity with a fun twist. Each night is a different theme: one night could be karaoke night, another is family movie night or they could even have Stellar DJ be there. Many large groups and individuals come and help pack boxes or pack and seal frozen vegetables for a few hours while rockin’ it out to their favorite tunes. The night I was volunteering happened to be Golden Oldie’s night, a night of Top 40’s music when your grandparents were young. Before starting I admit I was a little nervous. I hadn’t volunteered in a while and was unaware of the protocol. When you walk in to the volunteer center on a busy day the volunteers are usually absorbed in their work and talking to other volunteers. They know exactly what they’re doing and perform their assigned tasks with frighteningly skillful capability. Naturally, it’s a little daunting walking into this situation.
Thursday night after work I ventured over to the volunteer center. Liz and Dan, the volunteer coordinators, were moving around the warehouse getting everything ready while volunteers slowly trickled in. Once everyone had gathered, people were divided into groups. I chose to pack wax beans. We were split into groups of “packers,” “weighers” and “sealers”. There were a few people assigned to each task. As I sealed bags of frozen beans I looked up and saw many people hunched over, shoveling beans into bags and waddling over to the people standing at the scales, waiting to weigh the bags for packaging. I nervously waited for the first bag to make its way in front of me and quickly assessed whether I made the right decision to be a sealer. I briefly entertained the idea of switching to the other side of the table to be a weigher. I mean it wouldn’t be difficult right? Just put the bags on the scale and make sure the number matches with the number on the bag. But looking at the girl in front of me, her eyes darting back and forth, moving beans from one bag to another to balance the scale, I changed my mind and opted to pack the bags with beans. However, after staring at the mountain high boxes containing hundreds of pounds of beans I gave up on that idea as well. It seems silly for me to fret over this but it’s never fun to be the new kid in class who can’t color in the lines and have everyone notice their egregious mistakes. Who wants to stick out like a sore thumb?
I started sealing the overwhelmingly large pile of frozen veggies in front of me, (and avoiding melting the plastic) while listening to old-time singers crooning on about finding love, lost love, unrequited love and love of blue suede accessories (that was what Elvis was singing about right?). The night went by quickly as volunteers chatted with each other and the empty cardboard boxes behind us quickly filled up with frozen product. And out of nowhere all movement stopped as Liz gave us instructions on cleaning up our section of the warehouse. At the end of the shift Liz merrily announced the final results of our volunteer efforts. The entire group, within the span of two short hours, had packed and sealed 150 cases of beans which is approximately 5,100 pounds of beans which will provide 3,923 meals to hungry Oklahomans.
Despite my initial anxieties, it was worth it. Volunteering at the Food Bank reminded me of the hard work and effort it takes to keep food going out to our partner agencies and to the public. I encourage everyone to go to Rock n’ Box or volunteer during the morning and afternoon shifts. We sometimes get caught up in our own lives and it’s important not to forget about the impact we can make in the lives of others.
To find out how you can help during Hunger Action Month please visit our website.
As everyone here at the Regional Food Bank knows, this month is Feeding America’s Hunger Action Month. But some people may not know that September is also National Food Safety Month. Not surprisingly, hunger and food safety go hand in hand. We recognize that providing unsafe food can be just as detrimental as providing no food at all. This is why the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma goes to great lengths to ensure that all food in our warehouse is stored and transported at proper temperatures and is distributed in a systematic and timely manner.
However, it is likely that those of us who are not struggling with hunger may occasionally neglect to ensure that our own food is safe to eat.
With that said, I would like to share why a story titled “Is Your Desk Making You Sick? New Survey Finds Desktop Dining Poses Food Poisoning Risk” interested me.
First of all, I am a dietitian. I LOVE any and all topics related to food.
Second, I find food safety, and the frightening lack thereof, intriguing. While learning the guidelines, standards, and regulations that keep food safe delights me, the realization that these practices are not always followed leaves me feeling helpless and upset. I realize it is freakishly easy for people to neglect food safety practices and/or deem them trivial and unworthy of learning in the first place. As a result, I have taken to secretly scanning restaurants and grocery stores for food safety abiders and food safety delinquents. Trust me, it’s fun.
Third, the nod to “desktop dining” immediately piqued my curiosity. Up until that very moment, I had yet to acknowledge that the ability to orchestrate one-handed e-mailing, strategic sandwich bites, phone calls, webinar log-ins, finger-licking, slurping, swallowing and navigation of a sticky mouse (without getting chip crumbs and orange pulp into my computer’s motherboard, mind you) had become mainstream. I was already slightly perturbed and had only read the title. Clearly, further reading was warranted.
From the title, I also got the sneaking suspicion that this article was threatening to expose the inevitable downside to my seemingly sensible attempt at a time-saving, environmentally friendly, health-conscious, economical, productivity-driven lunch hour. Therefore, I dove in.
But, much to my surprise, this did not turn out to be another instance where my good intentions took a nose dive to the findings of research. Instead, stumbling upon this article simply reminded me that basic hygiene lessons are just as important in the “grown-up world” as they were in elementary school.
To summarize, the story presented data from the 2011 Desktop Dining Survey conducted by HealthFocus International. The survey was a collaborative effort of the American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods’ Home Food Safety program to raise consumer awareness about the seriousness of foodborne illness and how to easily and safely handle food at home. During April 2011, an online survey was conducted of a random sample of 2,191 full-time employees, both men and women, who worked at a desk.
From the conclusions, I found the following information most surprising:
- 62% of Americans eat lunch at their desk
- 50% snack throughout the day at their desk
- 27% have breakfast as their first desktop priority
- 4% work late nights, thus dining at their desktop for dinner
- 67% say the refrigerator is not where they store their lunch even though virtually all work places now have a refrigerator
- Approximately one in five people admit they don’t know if the refrigerator is ever cleaned or say it is rarely or never cleaned
- 49 % admit to letting perishable food sit out for three or more hours before consuming
- Only 36% of respondents clean their work areas—desktop, keyboard, mouse—weekly
- 64% do so only once a month or less
- A study updated in 2007 by the University of Arizona found the average desktop has 100 times more bacteria than a kitchen table and 400 times more than the average toilet seat.
As your best defense against foodborne illness at the office, the ADA recommends this To-Do List:
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap before eating lunch and snacks (and employee birthday cake)
- Keep moist towelettes or hand sanitizer in your desk for times when you can’t get to the sink
- Use a refrigerator thermometer to ensure cold food is safely stored below 40 degrees Fahrenheit
- Perishable foods need to be refrigerated within two hours (one hour if the temperature is greater than 90 degrees Fahrenheit) from when it was removed from the refrigerator at home.
- When cooking prepared food in the microwave, follow the cooking instructions on the package closely
- Re-heat all leftovers to the proper temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit
Ever wonder what a Senior Mobile Pantry looks like? Here are some pictures from a recent pantry to give you an idea:
Setting up tables starts the process.
Then volunteers prepare the food for distribution. Here we are sacking meat and produce for today’s pantry.
Check out the selections for today. Thanks to many generous donors, each resident will receive meat, produce, bread and a sack of non-perishables. All will be well received and much needed!
Residents start lining up before we even get to the site. These pantries help to close the food gap for many seniors who are food insecure. Many can’t afford to pay for prescription medications and food all in the same month, so they try to get by without much food. That’s where the Senior Mobile Pantry really helps.
Residents get to select their own produce and bread items after they receive their sacks of meat and non-perishables. Giving them the choice provides them with more of a “shopping” experience, which they truly appreciate.
Smiles are typically the end result at a Senior Mobile Pantry – both for volunteers and for residents. For many of our seniors, the mobile pantry gives them an opportunity to get out and socialize with other residents, which is an added benefit to the program.
Want to add your smile to the mix? Contact me at 405-600-3151 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to volunteer at a Senior Mobile Pantry.