Ross: Helping the hungry comes with gratitude that goes both ways

Nov 20, 2023, 7:45 AM | Updated: 9:12 am

Image: Washington Louis sorts through cans of food at the LifeNet4Families community-based food pan...

Washington Louis sorts through cans of food at the LifeNet4Families community-based food pantry on Sept. 29, 2023 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images)

(Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images)

Last week a group of us from KIRO Radio – Management, Sales, and On-Air staff – volunteered at the White Center Food Bank. And I think it’s fair to say, we were impressed.

I do have some experience in this area – I’ve done rice distribution at Northwest Harvest, sorted giant boxes of plums at Food Lifeline, and many years ago I was a Saturday driver for the gleaning van at our local church – which involved gathering the unsold produce, cleaning it up, and delivering to charities.

It taught me that there is no reason for anyone to go hungry. The food is there, and so are the organizations dedicated to delivering it.

And – what’s encouraging is that today – supplying food to hungry families is no longer an afterthought like it was years ago when I would prowl the back rooms of grocery stores for leftover fruits and vegetables. Back then it seemed like stores were afraid that if word got around that there was all this free food, everybody would just stock up at the food banks and the stores themselves would lose customers.

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But of course that hasn’t happened.

Food banks like White Center have an application process. Customers are encouraged to book their shopping trips ahead of time, and there are quotas, which are enforced – albeit gently – to make sure there’s enough for everyone.

Today grocery chains cooperate with the food banks to set aside and refrigerate the unsold food. And it works. You won’t find fancy displays or a delicatessen, but we were able to hand out whole frozen chickens and turkeys for Thanksgiving, cans of sweetened condensed milk and muffin mix for baking, fresh heads of lettuce, plus onions and potatoes.

The inventory also includes foods appropriate to dietary customs rooted in culture or religion – because the food bank knows its neighborhood.

Actually, it felt to me like the White Center Food Bank has created its own community. The regular volunteers greet customers by name, and guide them to their favorite items – it feels more like a social event than just a shopping trip.

And of course – no checkout lines. The food is free, boxed and carried out to the car by volunteers who every year serve about 96,000 individuals just at this one food bank.

So, if you’ve never volunteered – why not try it out? I’m guessing there’s a food bank near you that could use some help. And if your experience is anything like mine, you’ll end up feeling just as grateful as the people you’re helping.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: Helping the hungry comes with gratitude that goes both ways