Friday, September 5, 2014

Getting to Know The Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC

I don't know about you, but I waste so much food every single day. That bread that didn't get eaten and now has mold on it. Those leftovers that weren't eaten quickly enough. The yogurt that I only had once -- the rest ended up in the trash. It's absurd. It's ridiculous. It's as if there is way too much food so it just gets wasted. But wait... Over 100,000 children in our local community do not know where their next meal is going to come from. In the 18 counties spanning from Boone to Burlington, NC, The Second Harvest Food Bank services 300,000 people, 100,000 of those being children. For those of you who live in Forsyth County, 1 in 6 people are "food insecure" -- meaning they lack reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

Yet here I am throwing out food like it's the new "in" thing to do. I'll be honest, I didn't know just how many of our neighbors are hungry. So the numbers were quite shocking. And heart-breaking. I am so thankful we've been able to partner with The Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina. Thanks to this partnership, you are able to donate one meal to a person in need for every bag of our granola you buy. It's really that easy. We can all make a difference!

Last week, I had the opportunity to head over to Second Harvest to volunteer. It was amazing, to say the least. We write a check to Second Harvest every quarter for our one bag, one meal donation, but there's nothing quite like getting your hands dirty and spending time in the warehouse, sorting the food that's going to feed over 300,000 hungry people.

After a quick tour of the place, I spent my morning in the salvage room. Second Harvest receives all of their food donations in one of two ways:
1) Food Drives
2) Food Salvage: big box retailers like Wal-Mart, Food Lion, etc. give food (close to expiration, slightly damaged, out-of-season-after-holiday type stuff, etc.) to the food bank.

In the salvage room, we inspect every food product by hand. We check expiration and best buy dates to ensure the food is still "good". ((The cool thing about expiration or "best by" dates is that a lot of the food is good for much longer than those dates!)) We inspect the packaging to make sure there are no openings (cuts, tears, holes, etc.) allowing outside contaminants in. If all looks good, then the food gets boxed and ready to head out to the floor. If not, the food gets tossed.

It really is great seeing so much food that would otherwise get tossed and wasted by the retailers, not get wasted -- and going to people who truly need it. But there was still so much that we had to toss because it was out-of-date or the packaging had been destroyed at some point during transit. I hate to see any food going to waste, especially when so many people are in need of that food. I believe that there really, truly is enough food to go around -- it just gets thrown out. I'm so grateful for places like Second Harvest who help eliminate part of that waste and in turn give it to those in need.

How does Second Harvest get the food to the people who need it?
As a food bank, Second Harvest stores all of the food in their warehouse. They partner with outside agencies and food assistance programs like Crisis Control, Samaritan Ministries, and many others! Those agencies are the ones who work directly with the people in need. So the agencies come to Second Harvest, get the food that stocks their pantries, and then give it directly to those in need -- 25 tons of food goes out daily!

Aside from buying our granola, how else can you help? 
The Second Harvest Food Bank is always in need of food and your help! Some months are more difficult than others, but they always need more food! Food drives are huge! So organize a food drive at your children's school or your local church or community center. If you're a local business, ask your customers to join you in giving back -- make it a weekend event! And volunteer!

How do they do it all? Who helps organize the food? You. Me. Us. People who volunteer their time to help create change. Take a few hours out of your week, once a month, or whenever you have time. Give back. We are all blessed with so much. Let's help bless those who need it most.

If you're interested in the numbers and want to learn more, the 2014 Hunger in America Study was just released by Feeding America. 

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