Sunday, January 22

We interrupt this program...

...with a post about the present. You will be returned to our vacation pictures shortly. Thank you!

Jessi and I talk a lot about volunteering. We talked about trying to do some service over in Southeast Asia, but we just didn't have time. So when we returned, Jessi stopped talking about volunteering and signed us up for a project this past weekend. We signed up with a group called Seattle Works to work with an organization called Northwest Harvest.

Northwest Harvest is an amazing organization that collects, organizes and distributes about 18 million lbs. of food to roughly 300 foodbanks in the Northwest every year. This is equivalent to assisting a half a million people... and they don't charge fees of any kind. They have only 10 paid employees, so they rely on voluteers to help get a lot of work done. That's where we came in!

We showed up at their warehouse at about 9 AM to start working. First thing we did was get trained. We had to sort donations into 5 categories: Canned goods, dry goods, baby food, glass and plastics, and non-food items. One of the full time employees, Bill, was our instructor. It turns out there are lots of rules to sorting food. Mostly we had to check expiration dates and the condition of the packaging.

Bill teaching us how to properly sort food.

I said there are lots of rules to sorting food, and that's because there are lots of potential problems: Food without labels, expired food, damaged food and leaking food (yuk) all of which could be hazardous to the people you are trying to help. Turns out a can of tomatoes dented the wrong way can kill someone (something about the toxins in rotten tomatoes) - talk about a backfire!

Our class listening intently to Bill. That's me on the right. I'm standing there not wanting to kill anyone.

While sorting through the food, Jessi and I started to realize two things: 1.) There are a lot of generous people out there donating items. We sorted through a ton of food! (Actually 6 tons to be exact.) And 2.) There are also some inconsiderate people out there donating items. I mean, you wouldn't believe some of the food we found. People will just clean out their pantries and donate it to a food bank. They go home thinking "I have done good today," and pat themselves on the back. But what they don't realize (and we didn't either until we volunteered) is that places like Northwest Harvest spend many, many man-hours sorting through donations, and when Northwest Harvest has to throw food away, they have to pay for it. So donating expired green beans not only doesn't help anyone, but it actually hurts the organization who is trying to help. If you are reading this, please donate to a local food bank, they do a lot of good. But only donate recently purchased items and/or items that other people will want to use!

Here, look at some of the things people donated.

A bag of Halloween candy that some trick or treater started picking through. There are actually empty wrappers in the bag as evidence.

While there's no expiration date on this one, we suspect that's because it was made before they were required. The packaging was straight out of the sixties.

Seriously. Are you kidding? That's the top of a jar. We didn't write it there, it was donated that way.

This is a bag of Christmas chocolates that had been opened with scissors, sampled, and then donated.

They have to pay to throw all that stuff away.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't mean to be negative. Not everything was bad. In fact, despite the few bad apples (we didn't sort through any apples really) there were a lot of great donations.

Now that's more like it!

Along with all the great donations, the facility was so impressive. There were groups of volunteers scurrying around, forklifts running about, pallettes of boxed food stacked neatly and truckloads and truckloads of food awaiting delivery. You definitely got a good sense of just how many people are affected by Northwest Harvest's efforts.

Look at all that food!

Stacks and stacks of packed boxes of food.

Here we are sorting all the food.

Trucks lined up ready to deliver food.

Now that's getting into your work!

Stacking up the full ones.

We had such a great time that we think we'll be doing this every month. (Don't worry we won't make you look at a hundred pictures every time we volunteer.) But if you wanna do something to help too, get out and voluteer with Seattle Works, Northwest Harvest, or at least donate some (good) food to a food bank.



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