Date: March 24, 2007
Time: 12:45-4 p.m.
Location: Greater Boston Food Bank, 99 Atkinson St, Boston, MA
Any One Can Help Alleviate Hunger in Our Community
On Saturday March 24, the Bryn Mawr Club of Boston sponsored a community service project excursion, organized by Bejay Ugale ’00, to help sort boxes, bottles, and cans of food at the Greater Boston Food Bank. VERY interesting – fantastic organization! At each 3-hour session, volunteers are trained and then placed in assembly lines to inspect and pass on the foodstuffs. Our group included: Bejay, Jane Lifton ’76, her friend Pat, Kyoko Yamamoto ’01, her husband Ashish, Barbara Powell ’62, Sharon Gershman ’00,
I was a second sorter. After the first sorter had examined the expiration date and general condition of a bottle, can or box and wiped it off with a paper towel, I and 40 others would pick the item out of a jumbled pile in a box and take it to its proper category: beverages, juices, condiments (a catch-all for anything you couldn’t identify), snacks, untreated pasta, tomato products, complete meals, baking needs, protein beans and tuna,
etc. We ran up and down the aisle with handfuls of miscellaneous boxes, jars, and cans, looking for the right station, then placing, heaving, or arranging the item in that box. When a category box was full or heavy enough (20 or 40 lbs.), someone would heft it over to the quality control belt, where more volunteers checked to make sure everything was what it was supposed to be. The box would then pass to the weigh station to get shrink-wrapped along with its fellows, and fork-lifted away.
The cheerful, noisy spirit of the trainers was irrepressible as they explained over and over where olives and mayonnaise should go (1. vegetable or condiment; 2. usually expired egg product to be ditched). They were very strict about what was acceptable to present to the various shelters, schools, soup kitchens, or food pantries always considering the physical abilities of the recipients (could they open it easily at home, was it allergy-free and in safe packaging). We watched dozens of bottles of extra-virgin olive oil and pounds of chocolate treats disappear beyond our itchy fingers, as well as mincemeat with brandy and rum – no liquor distribution permitted!)
The time passed quickly. There was a pizza-snack-bathroom break, then back again for just a while. They promised “in at 1 p.m. and out at 4 p.m.” and that’s what we did. It was actually quite exciting and fun. City Year, BU, Syracuse U., and a number of “walk-ins” were all working side-by-side companionably. Of the 109 volunteers on that Saturday
afternoon shift, each one prepared 117 complete meals for a total of 12,753 meals! The whole group did enough packing for a whole 30-pupil classroom for a year. A total of 20,657 lbs. of food was sorted that afternoon of which 16,526 lbs. (about 80%) was salvaged. Jane Lifton and her friend Pat were fascinated to see all the work that goes into
preparing the food items for Open Table, a non-profit organization (for which they both volunteer) that offers a weekly community pantry and supper in Concord and Maynard.
– Cornelia Robart ’61
Community Service Project – Greater Boston Food Bank
On Saturday March 24th, an energized team of Mawrters joined about 100 other volunteers for an afternoon of packaging food at the Greater Boston Food Bank, the largest hunger-relief organization in New England. We were all given specific jobs for the afternoon: inspecting the products sent to the food bank warehouse, sorting them into boxes of like kind product such as canned vegetables or breakfast foods, checking that
the boxes have the correct products and reach the weight requirement for that food type, ensuring there were enough boxes to go round for the team and running (more like scurrying between the assembly lines) to get whichever food item may have slipped into the wrong box to its correct location. Combined with the morning session’s help of volunteers, we were able to package enough food to feed a school classroom for an entire year! Not too shabby for a couple hours work in an afternoon.
The Food Bank distributes 25 million pounds of food per year to shelters and food pantries, which feeds over 320,000 hungry poor to middle-class people. If you’d like more information about the Greater Boston Food Bank, please visit www.gbfb.org. It was a great way to spend a few hours of our time, and incredible to see the product of our labors instantly and to know how much this will help others in our community.
– Sharon Gershman ’00