This blog is written by Cait Henck, a MBC student and Changemaker, who has helped lead reflections for the students on their experiences in CE 277: Assisting Local Food Programs.
It is the ninth day of the Assisting Local Food Programs course led by Dr. Kathy McCleaf and in this short window of time, already our students find themselves moved by this experience. During an hour-long reflection session this past Tuesday, May 3, 2011, the ladies were able to discuss their experiences up until this point and any issues or concerns that were raised for them.
Amber Wilkins, a soon-to-be graduate of Mary Baldwin College, spoke of the awe she felt from unpacking and repacking a large shipment of Purdue chickens for distribution to over 300 families in a single session of volunteer service at the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. She was utterly surprised by how much food was actually donated on a regular basis. While stocking shelves one afternoon she even came across a donation from a Mary Baldwin sociology class.
Several of the students, including Shawnay Mayers, also spoke to the nutritional components of food insecurity. While healthy and unhealthy choices alike are available, people tend to gravitate towards junk foods high in saturated fats, salt, and sugar. They seek quick hunger quenchers, but do not make long-term decisions in terms of nutrition (i.e. nuts are a better snack than potato chips as they are high in protein and stave off hunger longer).
Our students are beginning to think for the future as well, cultivating ideas for further hunger alleviation. Ms. Wilkins expressed her interest in better establishing the local Backpack Program to feed children and families who cannot or will not visit area food banks. During service at the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, one of the employees began to explain the reasoning behind the high costs of such a program: most of the families forget to return the backpacks and the food bank is forced to reorder them at their own expense. Just the week prior, the facility was forced to order a full shipment of replacement bags just to have enough to distribute to the children.
The overall assessment of this experience thus far appears mixed; every student present at the reflection session remarked on the dual emotions sparked by their first week of service in alleviating food insecurity. While the students were happy to help local residents ease their hungry stomachs, each young lady was saddened by the very thought that people must be reduced to appealing to the kindness of others for their very sustenance.
During May Term, Mary Baldwin College students are serving throughout the community at agencies who tackle food insecurity as part of CE 277: Assisting Local Food Populations. Hear what students had to say about their first week of service:
My First Day at the Food Bank
This first day gave me a great appreciation for our government and its willingness to provide so much food to people who are really struggling. I am meaning to ask the members of the food bank if they get any fresh fruits and vegetables for distribution. Both are essential to sustaining a healthy lifestyle but I know that such goods may be hard to transport. However, this area is loaded with farms that could contribute. Fruits and vegetables have mulitiple uses that I am sure would benefit the families. We also did some work stocking the shelves which didn’t take much time because we worked very fast as a team.
At the Food Bank
I feel that for the first day I had a good experience. I got to experience how many families need food or at least an estimate. Seeing people come in and out of the food bank buying goods from the store really made me look at the community a little bit different because at one point in time there was a small crowd of people trying to pick through canned goods and paper items to have a meal tonight or for the week. I guess I never really thought about how many people that look no different than anyone of us, are in need of food. I was surprised when I saw the children’s backpacks that were getting ready to be prepared to give to children in school to have meals. I think I was more surprised at the reality that some children really do not always have a meal. Today was a good start to my experience.
Chocolate Soy Milk!
I was surprised at how many people there were, the line was out the door. They began at the desk where they told the volunteer there name and then signed in the book. Once done with that they were allowed to grab a cart and it became as if they were in a grocery store because there were so many items to choose from. My assigned food was chocolate soymilk, at first that didn’t so well, but once I took one out the box to show for a display they were going crazy and next thing I knew everybody was taking them. At the pantry with some food items people have a choice of either a couple or an entire case. The pantry offers healthy food and also not so healthy food and I observed that many people were going for the unhealthy items. It was amazing to see how many people that were being helped and I was there to assist in the process.