Early on a recent Saturday morning, my family of six bounded out the door in matching t-shirts. Our destination: the San Antonio Food Bank. The company I work for was participating in a large-scale, city-wide volunteer activity, and big groups of employees were heading to a handful of local United Way agencies to provide volunteer support. My group was assigned to the San Antonio Food Bank, and the flyer said that children as young as eight years old could participate with a parent or guardian. This meant that even the youngest member of my family, nine-year-old Sadie, was able to participate. I signed us up.
We arrived at the Food Bank’s massive facility off Highway 90 right on time, signed in, and waited for our assignment. One group was led outside to help in the Food Bank’s 27-acre community garden, while my family and I decided to help in the warehouse. Eleanor (age 11) and Sadie were amazed by the giant shelves in the warehouses, stacked high with nonperishable foodstuffs and other supplies. Our first task was to sort and bag potatoes. I had never seen such humongous bins of potatoes, and I wasn’t sure if we would ever get to the bottom of each giant bag. We all got busy, and soon our teenage twin sons, Eric and Grant, came up with an efficient system for gathering, sorting, bagging, and tying. A lot of the potatoes we sorted were deemed not pretty enough to be sold in grocery stores, which is how they made their way to the Food Bank, but we couldn’t figure out why anyone would reject a heart-shaped potato.
Once the potato task was complete, we boxed up bread. Giant pallets of loaves of bread, buns, and tortillas that were near their expiration dates were rolled into our area of the warehouse. We boxed the items into cardboard banana crates, which were loaded onto forklifts, and moved out of the warehouse for quick distribution.
Our experience volunteering together at the Food Bank was the catalyst for lots of conversations in my family about volunteerism in general, who receives emergency food assistance in our city and surrounding areas and why, and what we can do to help. We all felt good about doing our part, and we took a moment to feel grateful for what we have. We talked about how so many families simply can’t afford to sit down to dinner together every night the way we do. We wondered where the potatoes that we bagged and the bread we boxed might end up. We imagined the heart-shaped potato making its way to a hungry child’s dinner plate, lovingly baked in the oven with a melting pat of butter on top.