The Necessity of Community Food Banks Section One: Evaluation of Service and Learning Cheryl Oberholser and Cynthia Tuttle, authors of “Assessment of Household Food Security Among Food Stamp Recipient Families in Maryland,” assessed the relationship between food security status and various sociodemographic characteristics among households that include children and that receive food stamps.
Based on the survey they conducted, the authors found 34% of respondents reported they “sometimes did not have enough food to eat,” 9% reported “often not having enough to eat,” and 5% of the participants did not always have the “kinds of food they wanted to eat,” although they had enough to eat (Oberholser and Tuttle). Not enough money to buy food was consistently and most frequently reported as the reason for not having enough food or the kinds of food they wanted to eat. By volunteering at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Irvine, I was expecting to do my part in the fight to stop hunger in our community.
According to their website, feedoc. org, “one in five children are at risk of hunger each month, nearly half of all public school kids rely on reduced or free lunches for their major ource of nutrition and nearly 45% of OC seniors don’t have enough money for basic necessities”. Considering we live in such an affluent county, people do not really consider that there could also be individuals struggling to make ends meet. The goal of the food bank is to be a collection source of donated goods and monetary funds which are then distributed to local nonprofit organizations, food pantries, and charities.
Last year, the food bank had a total of 18,000 volunteers who contributed towards a multitude of things like checking donated food for quality and safety to planting and harvesting produce in the Incredible Edible Park (FeedOC). My expectation was to be one of these individual volunteers and help contribute my part in providing goods for the community. Overall, I would say my experience was quite pleasant volunteering at the food bank. The people I met were genuinely great and I will continue to volunteer here over the summer. I initially thought my service would be more hands-on with the process and delivery.
I had this preconceived notion that I would be giving families goods with my own hands all the while smiling heroically. Obviously, I was wrong. My role in service was more-so geared towards eing part of the assembly line towards providing food for the community. I learned quite a bit from my experience at the food bank and consider it a necessity for low-income families. My work at the food bank consisted of sorting, labeling, and packaging donated foods and personal items donated by manufacturers, food drives, and community members.
I worked with other volunteers from the community to help the food bank reach their daily quota of work completed per day. Sorting and bagging produce, like oranges, carrots, and onions, was a common activity we were asked to complete. With this, I had the glorious experience of having my thumb pierce through the thick peel of a rotten orange. It was important that we only bagged clean produce and not anything that was going foul to promote the ethics of the food bank. After bagging pounds of produce, it would be packed in crates and loaded into trucks to be taken to nonprofits and food pantries.
From there, the food would be distributed to families in need. Recipients were benefited with clean and generously-portioned produce to feed their families. My experience at the agency opened my eyes to he types of people the food bank helps in our community and also the individuals who choose to volunteer there. Previously, I had thought only low-income families were helped by the food bank. Though families with financial struggles are helped, the food bank also provides goods for shelters, churches, homes for battered and abused women and children, and local pantries.
I was surprised to note how much healthy produce was being distributed out to recipients, however I believe this has more to do with the community we live in and what types of donations are pouring in. I learned having a community food bank is vital for helping all types of people who are in need and can help these types of people get back on their feet. I also learned about the kinds of people who volunteer at this organization, some willingly and some with an incentive. I met many retired workers, homemakers, and groups volunteering on behalf of their professional careers.
Chapter six of Understanding Social Problems by Mooney, Knox, and Schacht discusses the consequences of economic inequality and poverty. According to the text, “the United States has the greatest degree of income nequality and the highest rate of poverty of any industrialized nation” (Mooney et al. , 180). Poverty leads to a negative impact on family life, health, and one’s environment. Not having enough money also leads to families not being able to provide for their families, and they often times go hungry.
Hunger in the United States is measured by the percentage of households that are “food insecure,” which means that the household had difficulty providing enough food for all its members due to a lack of resources. In 2011, nearly 15 percent of U. S. households were food insecure at some time during the year (184). Being poor also exposes one to rough neighborhoods with high crime rates and pollution. Consequences of living in poor neighborhoods is a lack of education for the youth, as discussed in chapter eight.
Children whose families are in middle to upper socioeconomic brackets are more likely to perform better in school and to complete more years of education than children from families of lower socioeconomic classes (246). Therefore, individuals are left stuck in a never-ending cycle of a lack of education leading to poverty and struggling to provide for their families. Section Two: Reflective Thought I had a general idea of what was to be expected of me before I set foot into the food distribution center, my only concern being that the agency not be disorganized or half-assed.
I can happily report the distribution center was incredibly well-organized and thought out. The outside of the food bank was actually really nice looking; I wasn’t expecting that. Though, appearances do matter; so, maybe I should not have been altogether surprised. Overall, I not only learned more about how the food bank helps the community, but also about other social problems in our society. The amount of produce we sorted through the first day was insane and reminded me that there is a growing problem in the U. S. , and now in the community, regarding a lack of healthy food available for low-income families.
I was happy to see how much fresh and healthy produce volunteers were sorting through instead of donated hamburger helper or syrupy fruit cups. My second shift allowed me the opportunity of meeting two volunteers closer in age to myself instead of the mostly retired folk I was chatting with during my previous shift. Tom*, a CSU San Marcos graduate with a bachelor in economics, was ooking for a job & was volunteering in the meantime. Anna* had moved back to California from Boston and told us her experience with studying abroad in Europe.
She told us about how study-abroad students were often targeted in Paris, and some of the girls got raped. A lot of them were robbed by thieves. Her study abroad stories reminded me that the abundance of crime is due to a lack of education, which leads to desperation. Rape is a serious issue and needs to be addressed from a young age to teach all genders to respect each other. Tom’s struggle with unemployment is a problem prevalent with any college graduates. He mentioned that he regrets majoring in economics because he has no idea what he’s going to do with it.
This is a strong reason as to why the education system needs to have a stronger emphasis on STEM in school or advertise trade schools as another option. I met Amy* during my third shift; she was part of a large company group and was helping to sort onions at my table. She told me how she was in community college for ten years and then transferred to UCI and got a bachelor in psychology with a business minor. I learned she has daughter in her first year at Saddleback College who might major in engineering or math.
Amy’s life-story reminded me how difficult it can become to get a higher education once a woman has children. The current system in place makes it very unmanageable and needs to change. Amy was one of the lucky ones who was able to obtain her degree-but look how long it took her. I also talked to Patty* and she told me a story of the homosexual young man she knew back in Texas who came out to his family. His father was incredibly unaccepting and disowned his son. Her story shows that even though being gay is egal in the U. S. many people are not ready to accept this change and it is tearing families apart.
On my last shift, I happened to meet a fellow sociology student and another individual volunteer who was a IT worker for a videogame company. The shift leader this time was a total creep and gave me some serious goosebumps. He asked me if I knew how to bake bread and if I would prefer working in the kitchen and even made several comments about leaving us in the dark but luckily me having “strong men” to protect me. I told him l’d hit him upside the head with a crate if he tried anything.
Handling the shift leader reminded me that sexism is still very prevalent in our society and should be dealt with swiftly and without remorse. I was so pissed he was making such comments; I can take care of myself! Lesson learned-volunteer for the morning shifts only. *=names have been changed for privacy reasons. Section Three: What next? In conclusion, I believe it is a great idea to inform people about the great work that happens locally at food banks and the positive impact they are having on families in need. I also think it is very important to educate the youth and keep providing ducation.
Getting an education is the best way to ensure one does not end up in poverty, even if they have family history saying otherwise. Investments in human development involve programs and policies that provide adequate nutrition, sanitation, housing, health, and educational and job training. (Mooney et al. , 193). The use of microcredit programs would also be beneficial in giving those in poverty the financial resources they need to become self-sufficient and contribute to their local economies (ibid). Further support could also be given to single-parent-headed households with children.
State programs not only should evaluate the amount of food stamp benefits provided to these at-risk families but also should increase referrals to food assistance programs and decrease the barriers to participation in an effort to maximize the utilization of programs” (Oberholser and Tuttle). There are already programs set up, like TANF and SNAP, but increasing access to such programs would be beneficial in helping those in need. If people really want to evolve as a society, the only way to progress is when everyone “views people—not money—as the real wealth of a nation” (Mooney et al. , 193).