Here’s a scary statistic: about fifteen percent of households in the United States are food insecure. Fifteen percent. Even in the world’s largest economy, millions deal with hunger daily. As a group, food insecure households are incredibly diverse. These households include fixed-income elderly individuals, single parent households, individuals with medical emergencies, and the unemployed. Luckily, there are great organizations like Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County that dedicate their efforts to feeding the hungry.
Second Harvest Food Bank helps feed over 240,000 people in Orange County with 1.5 million pounds of food each month. It was founded in 1983 with a mission to end hunger in Orange County. With the help of 340 partner organizations, Second Harvest has distributed over 272 million pounds of food since it’s founding. Much of this is “rescued” food, food approaching it’s sell by date, which is collected from grocery stores and distributed to the hungry through their partner network. Their Brown Bag program provides struggling seniors with two bags of groceries twice a month. In addition, they help people sign up for CalFresh (California’s food stamp program) and provide emergency food assistance. Even with its massive scale, Second Harvest spends ninety cents of every dollar directly on food assistance. But before any food can be distributed, it must be inspected, sorted, and packed which requires some serious manpower. That’s where we come in.
It was a beautiful October morning as we headed to Irvine for our Second Harvest volunteer event. Their facilities, located at the OC Great Park (also host of the 2013 Solar Decathlon), are truly an impressive operation. They occupy three warehouses which include over 9,000 square feet of refrigerator and freezer space! I wandered around the massive warehouse past row after row of pallets before finding the ecoSolargy team. A staff member spoke to the volunteers which included families and a large UCLA Alumni contingent, briefly about hunger in Orange County. We learned our project would be packing boxes designed to feed a family of four for one week.
Following our briefing, we walked over to the volunteer assembly line and got to work. Some volunteers assembled boxes and passed them to others who sent them down a long conveyer to be packed with donated food. At the end of the line, the boxes were sealed, arranged on pallets, and readied for shipment. The staff immediately recognized the leadership skills of TweeterDeeter and I and made us “Directors of the Waste Management Division”. In this capacity, we oversaw disposal of all refuse and…ok, so we just broke down boxes. But we did an impressive job, if I do say so myself. The operation ran incredibly smooth – I suppose with over 10,000 volunteers yearly, Second Harvest has their Saturday morning routine down to a science. With our fellow volunteers, we packed 29 pallets with 64 boxes each – nearly 2000 boxes. We fell shy of the 30 pallet record, but only because we ran out of supplies. There’s always next time…