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.