Following Along in the Food Bank

Kevin 1Nathan Hale High School student Isaac Alter spent two spring days at JFS as part of an “Author of Change” school project. Hale sophomores shadow people in the community who are working to make a social difference, and then the students write reflective papers about their experiences. Alter chose JFS because of family connections to the agency. He spent both days with Kevin Lugo, JFS Food Bank Specialist.

“It’s great having these opportunities to educate and hopefully impact someone,” Lugo said. “There’s a lot of complexity around hunger, and I like to break down those barriers for students. I try and teach them a more holistic approach as to why our clients come to the Food Bank.”

The first day, Alter helped complete a 46-bag home delivery route which included assembling the bags with fruit, vegetables, meat and canned good, as well as delivery to the clients’ homes. He noted that JFS makes a special effort to accommodate dietary needs and health concerns.

“Some clients were vegetarian so we made sure they had extra protein that wasn’t meat,” Alter said. “Others had diabetes and needed low- or no- sugar items or had pets and requested cat or dog food.”

The second day, Alter helped set up then worked a Food Bank shift. “I was surprised to see so many different kinds of people with all different backgrounds coming to the Food Bank,” Alter said. He also noted, “It seems like the staff has to go all over the place to collect food, which requires a lot of resources and partnerships.”

The Food Bank operates on a “client choice model.” This means that clients select the food they prefer from among the available choices – typically multiple varieties of canned fruits, vegetables, tuna, soup and beans as well as fresh produce, eggs, lean meats and dairy. After completing his shift, Alter noted that some items clients wanted were not available, especially toiletries.

“Certain items, like toiletries, are in high demand, and it’s really hard to maintain them with our limited resources,” Lugo said. “We rarely have the budget for those sorts of items.”

As Alter wrapped up his reflection paper, he noted that he enjoyed the personal interactions through home delivery the most. He also learned much about the internal workings of a food bank by shadowing Lugo.

“I hope when visitors leave they are more aware of what we do and why we do it,” Lugo said. “I hope they feel inspired in some way. I also hope that they will see opportunities in their own community and will continue to volunteer.”

IMG_8896-2Written by Leslie Sugiura
Savvy cook, extreme clam digger, urban gardener and mom to Stella the dog are just a few of the titles Leslie Sugiura keeps in rotation. She’s also the Director of Special Events for JFS where she spearheads the annual Community of Caring Luncheon.

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