This morning I volunteered at the Columbia Baptist Church’s Food Bank in Falls Church. The food bank serves an average of 200 families a week. I went there to meet with some Kiwanis who were also volunteering. Oddly, no actual Kiwanis showed up, however three of us Kiwanis-wannabees did. A regular volunteer named Mercedes was assigned to train us. Mercedes is a joyful ball of energy and knowledge. Despite a recent car accident and having moved this week, she flowed through the facility with remarkable speed. We had trouble keeping up with her.
Each family receives a standard two bags of groceries which include rice, pasta, tomato sauce, tuna, peanut butter, and canned vegetables. In addition to the standard bags, clients are asked if they are looking for anything special and asked if they want any of the fresh items that are available that week. Donations vary, so it’s first come, first served. This week the pantry had fresh cabbage, onions, sweet potatoes and apples. Everything but the cabbage ran out before everyone was served. In addition to the food, each client is asked if they want a prayer. Everyone we served today wanted the prayer, and I don’t blame them. I’m not particularly religious, but Mercedes can do some serious praying.
I was struck by how organized the whole program is. Betsy, the director, does an excellent job coordinating the entire enterprise. There was real thought put into everything from shelving to bagging. Staples are pre-packed to save time. Special items are picked up and bagged by volunteers as they are requested. There is a special shelf for homeless-friendly food, i.e. items that don’t have to be cooked and can be opened with a pull tab not a can opener. All items are double bagged, because many of the clients walk and have to carry bags a ways back home.
All in all, I had a very good morning, and I was happy to work with such an important organization in this community. For anyone local that’s interested in donating to the Columbia Baptist Food Pantry, here is a list of their top ten needed items:
Canned Pasta (e.g., Chef Boyardee)
Plastic Grocery Bags
Based on what I saw today, I would add cooking oil and baby formula to that list. And of course, they are always looking for Saturday morning volunteers. You can find out all about the program here.