Youth Forward Scholarship Winter 2017 – What I’ve Learned at the Food Bank

Name: Elizabeth Smith
From: Waterloo, Iowa
Grade: 9
School: Waterloo West High
Votes: 0

           Approximately 4-5 hours a month, I volunteer at the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. My
responsibilities include stocking pantry shelves, weighing the
clients’ carts of food, and sweeping/mopping after the weekly
produce and perishables pantry is over. Although I have only been
volunteering at the Food Bank since March, I have learned so much
about how important their work, and the work of volunteers
everywhere, is. My time goes towards making sure people in the area
have enough to eat, and not just adults, but children as well. Every
week, I see how many people benefit from what the Food Bank does, and
I realized how lucky I am to have all of the “extra” food I have
at home. I have learned that not everybody in my community has access
to a steady supply and variety of food like I do, so I should be more
grateful for what I have.

Along with everything I love about volunteering at the Food Bank, there are
some challenges as well. There are numbers displayed on each shelf of
fridge, and clients are only allowed to take that number of things.
When somebody tries to take more than they are supposed to, I have to
explain to them why they cannot, and have them put the item back.
Sometimes the clients get upset and are rude, but it also puts me in
a moral dilemma.

For example, there was one Thursday where a woman wanted to take more
toothbrushes than she was allowed: she wanted two, but she was only
allowed to take one. I explained that she had to put one back, and
she got upset.

But there’s two of us.” she said, gesturing to the man pushing their
cart. I had to ask her again to put the toothbrush back, because that
is part of my job, but I felt bad for having to do so. Her and her
husband evidently needed that extra toothbrush: such a basic item to
have, and there I was, having to deny them something most people
don’t even realize they have.

By volunteering, I have learned so much about my community, and that
aligns with my future plan to work in environmental science because
both cases revolve around helping others. My volunteer work has
enabled me to help people around my town have access to food, and in
the environmental field, I will help make the planet safer for
everybody. I am working towards a future where everybody has enough
to eat, and a safe world to eat in, and maybe I won’t accomplish
that in 10 years. Maybe it will take longer, and maybe I will never
accomplish it, but I will be able to look back on my experience at
the Food Bank and know I made a difference in the lives of those
people. Maybe I will never be able to say I saved the world, but if I
can say I made a difference to one person, that’s enough for me.

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