Who in their right mind would ever choose to wake up early on a Saturday just to go organize dented cans with 50 other people? This is the question many Pace students would ask about the Atlanta Community Food Bank service project. On Saturday, Oct. 6, I set out to answer this question.
At 8:30 a.m., the service leaders met in the back parking lot with all of us who were joining them at Food Bank that day. There were about 10 of us, so we took two cars to get there. I soon learned that, more specifically, we were actually going to the Product Rescue Center, or PRC for short. We walked in as a group, and the service leaders helped all of the newbies fill out the required forms for participation. Then, chuckling about some “crazy cartoon,” they left us at the informational new participant seminar, while they went to start working.
We were in a room with the PRC logo all over the walls and a screen up front flashing random facts about food and hunger. There was an area with rows of chairs and people of all ages sitting in them. We all sat down next to each other and waited with everyone else who had never done this before for the man up front to start talking.
He introduced himself as Chuck. Chuck started out by telling us about the PRC. He then explained what we would actually be doing. Chuck reviewed all the different items we would encounter, from candy, peanut butter, and condiments to medicine, dented cans, and baby food. He explained the different jobs we could do, like sorting between good and bad food and packing boxes. To reinforce everything he had just told us, we watched a video about the PRC created by Cartoon Network. I will admit, that after watching the cartoon, I understood why the service leaders were laughing about leaving us in there.
Finally, we got to go into the warehouse with all the food and supplies and a different man talked to us there. First, he took 16 people out of the big group to do the initial sorting and inspecting of the food. He then told the rest of us that we would be loading the boxes. He taught us that we needed to put like products in the same box, and that every box needed to be a certain weight before we could pass it on. Some boxes we would fill with only candy or juice, while other boxes we would fill with a variety of foods that would be given directly to a family.
After all that, we finally got to go work. I admit, I was a little confused at the beginning, but it was very easy to get the hang of. The “sorters” would hand acceptable food and items back to us, and we would put it in the right box. Every person was in charge of their own box, and if the item given to us didn’t fit, we would just walk down the aisle until we found someone who had a box where it fit. Also, the PRC workers would walk around, answering people’s questions, and correcting them if they had sorted an item incorrectly. The PRC workers were super friendly to us Pace volunteers, asking about us and school.
After working for about an hour or so, Chuck told us to drop everything we were doing for a 15 minute break. We went back to the room where we had seen the presentation where we were offered free candy, chocolate, and granola bars. All of us Pace volunteers sat together, and Chuck played a video showing all the other service opportunities provided through the Atlanta Community Food Bank in addition to PRC. After the break, we went back to finish work. Everyone did the same job they had been doing earlier, only it went much faster because everyone already knew what they were doing.
Around noon, we finished working, and everyone again went back to the room where we had been given the presentation. Chuck first thanked a few different groups for coming. He then told us “our numbers.” We had packed 11,293 pounds of food, and made 7,553 meals. Everyone clapped, and we got up to leave for the service leaders to drive us back to Pace. As we were about to walk out the door, Chuck told everyone to wait, and he said that he would like to thank “the young people of our community from Pace Academy” for our work there. In the end, I learned the answer to my original question: everyone. Everyone should want to go to Food Bank because of the great experience you can have there with your friends. I only have one piece of advice. If you plan on going to Food Bank, don’t forget to wear closed toed shoes. Otherwise, you might end up wearing junior Josh Sloan’s football cleats for four hours.
By Julia Beck, Staff Writer ’15