I’ve heard it said many times that no two food banks are exactly the same. This phrase didn’t really seem true until recently. I had the opportunity to attend the Agency Capacity, Programs and Nutrition Learning Conference sponsored by Feeding America in Chicago. The conference was great, the weather was great, and the company was also great! There were about 400 other food bankers from all over the nation looking for the opportunity to network and share great ideas.
It was especially exciting getting to attend various sessions about childhood hunger programs. Programs such as the Backpack Program, Kids Cafe, and School Pantries were heavily discussed. I have been working rather closely with the School Pantry program here at the Regional Food Bank, so any session that discussed some aspect of that program, I was there! So many food banks are attempting to embrace this new program as a way to reach different child populations. I was excited to hear about all the various models of the program. Food banks in the network offer mobile pantries, temporary in-school set up, or permanent in-school set up. Regardless of the model, one thing that remains the same among all of the food banks is that our main goal is to provide hunger relief.
At the conference, there were several break-out sessions that addressed the importance of raising hunger awareness. From Sesame Street educating the younger population, to making changes in Capitol Hill, the issue remains that hunger truly exists and it is our responsibility to make sure everyone is informed about the issue. It was very reassuring knowing that there are so many organizations around the nation seeking to provide assistance to those in need. While each food bank in the Feeding America network may vary in size, capacity, and even the number of child hunger programs they have, we are all advocates for ending hunger.
Childhood Hunger Corps
Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma
5:07 PM on Friday, January 20th, 20121 Comment
What do you think this is? A place where people come to have fun? Well, yes. Yes, it is! We love to have fun while we work at the Regional Food Bank Volunteer Center. Above are two OU students. They were pumped up to volunteer, and they really enjoyed themselves. I know hunger in Oklahoma is a serious issue, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a good time while working hard to fight it. Not only did this group have a blast that morning, but they set a new record for packing for the Food for Kids Backpack Program. They worked hard and played hard, and that’s the idea we try to put across to our volunteers. We try to provide an environment where they can have a good time and feel productive.
And don’t tell me you don’t like to sing. I know by now you have probably heard we have karaoke once a month for Rock ’n Box on Thursday nights. And I know most people are too shy to get up and sing in front of strangers, but you never know until you try. You probably like to sing while you’re driving around in your car with the windows rolled up, listening to your favorite song or maybe sometimes in the shower. Well just picture yourself doing the same thing when you grab that microphone. Ask someone who has sung karaoke a few times and they’ll tell you, “It feels so liberating; it can be addictive!” So that’s another way you can have fun and help fight hunger. The more fun you have while volunteering makes the whole experience better for everyone. More people will want to volunteer to pack and sort food, which means more food will distributed to Oklahomans in need!
I have always been fascinated by our global society and the people in it and that’s why I chose to pursue a degree in International Studies from the University of Oklahoma. Now a junior, I have had the opportunity to learn about many different issues that affect us locally and internationally. From human rights to ending poverty, I have cultivated a yearning to make a difference in the world by solving problems that seem simple enough, but actually require complex answers. This yearning is what led me to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.
To put it simply, what the Regional Food Bank does works. From the Food for Kids programs to the Senior Feeding programs, the Regional Food Bank works on the local level with many different groups of people to provide the aid and the education that are needed to eradicate hunger in our state. Reaching close to 100,000 Oklahomans every week, the success of the Food Bank and its programs has truly impacted the state and its citizens while providing the programming and the education to be effective in the long-term.
This all ties into why I, an International Studies Major, wanted to be a marketing intern at the Regional Food Bank. Because on an international scale, solving things like hunger and providing aid are difficult and often ineffective in the long-term; and, unfortunately, the efforts to help do not always reach the people that need it the most. My goals while I am here are to learn how to effectively promote the programs and the work of the Regional Food Bank while also learning ways to apply and promote their programs on an international scale. If we hope to solve hunger on an international scale, we need to start by promoting, helping, and learning from organizations, like the Regional Food Bank, that have effectively reached, educated, and impacted our own communities.
I also hope to periodically link to interesting articles and programs that are effectively working to end world hunger. Essentially, informing readers of news and programs similar to those at the Regional Food Bank but on an international level. In honor of my first blog post, I would like to link to Freerice.com. Free Rice is sponsored by the World Food Programme and is a fun way to help alleviate world hunger by answering trivia questions. For each question answered right, ten grains of rice are donated to the World Food Programme. Sounds easy right? With each right answer, the questions get harder. Trust me, it’s addicting. Go to www.freerice.com, answer some questions, and then comment on this post with how many grains of rice you donated to the World Food Programme and your longest streak of correct questions. So far, Free Rice has donated almost 92 billion grains of rice, how many more will you contribute?
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to go with one of our drivers, Dennis, on his morning route. Naturally, being a technically minded person, I asked Dennis a litany of questions related to the technicalities, the truck, the process, and the amount of food that went to each organization that we would be delivering to that day. Our time that day took us to Yukon for 3 deliveries and 2 pickups. At the first site, I stood back and watched all of the things I had just asked Dennis, basically in an effort to see in action what he had just answered a few minutes ago. It wasn’t probably 3 minutes into my observation and I had an epiphany. Dennis was off doing his thing, and what I realized is that his job is much less related to the technicalities than it is the relationships. Dennis, in doing his job, had developed a relationship and rapport that was undeniable. They looked forward to him being there and he looked forward to seeing them. It was a first name basis, how’s your family, is there anything I can help you with type of occasion—a relationship.
From that point I realized that what we do here at the Food Bank is much less dependent on the technicalities than it is the relationships. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the technical things each of us do are very important, but at the end of the day NONE of what we do would be possible without the amazing relationships we have with the community and more so that the community has with us.
I am truly grateful for the opportunity I was given to work at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. My hope is that we all realize that our lives, our purpose, our mission are only accomplished by those with whom we have relationships. Whether at the Food Bank or life in general, it is these incredible relationships that allow everything necessary to be accomplished.