Volunteering at the Fredericksburg Food Bank- Kam Tavarez

It is no secret that all over the globe, including in the United States, people go hungry. Not the simple my stomach is growling type of hunger, but the type of hunger that it closely related to starvation. Although many people all over the nation are aware of the hunger problem, it is still alive and well, even in our own backyards. For this second research project, Kelsey and I decided to go volunteer at the Fredericksburg Food Bank in effort to help put a dent in fighting hunger.

Upon arrival at the food bank we did not know exactly in which way we would be helping. Due to the fact thanks thanksgiving was around the corner, I thought we would most likely be helping pack boxes for families or sort out food for those boxes. I imagined walking into a small building and working in a small confined space. I was so wrong! The food bank was far from small; it was more like a warehouse that resembled a stock room at a major grocery store. Instead of preparing thanksgiving boxes for families, we were stocking shelves for other non-profits to come in and “shop” for the families they provide services to. This was far beyond anything I had thought. In my thoughts food banks took in donations and passed it down to families, and people in need. The actual picture is much bigger than my thoughts. The Fredericksburg Food Bank is the main supplier of all of the non-profits in the area; they serve the same purpose as a store. Food and non-food items are provided for these non-profits to take back to their own organizations for distribution in their communities.

While volunteering we had the chance to work with Julie, who is the food safety coordinator at the food bank. We asked Julie questions about how the food bank works and where they get their supplies and funds. I was surprised by some of the answers she gave us. The Fredericksburg Food Bank operates under Feeding America, a national organization dedicated to fighting hunger. Their supplies come from donations as well as stores like Wal-Mart, which send in whatever they can no longer sell, due to some sort of damage. I was curious as to how much government funding, if any, is provided to help keep the Fredericksburg Food Bank operating. I wasn’t too surprised to learn that the food bank receives very little government funding, although they are strongly regulated by the FDA. I was surprised though when Julie mentioned that the American Bakers Association is trying to also enforce their regulations upon the food bank in an effort to fight against food terrorism. Food terrorism? I didn’t know that was a real thing either but apparently it is. Food items donated are at substantial risk of being used for terrorist acts.

Now that you all have some background on what we actually did and the role of the food bank, I will explain how on earth this is related to power. One of the Fredericksburg Food Banks values states, “We believe in the power of the community.  We collaborate and build strong relationships, based on trust with and among those who share our vision of creating a hunger-free community.” Their overall main goal is to decrease the food insecurity rate in the Fredericksburg area. They accomplish this by bringing the power down from a national level (Feeding America), into a regional level (Fredericksburg area), down to the local communities (Churches and Non-profits). The Fredericksburg Food Bank takes power into their own hands by providing non-profits a place to access an abundance of supplies needed in their communities. These non-profits pay an annual fee in order to be a member of the food bank’s distribution point. Aside from these fees, the non-profits do not have to pay for any of the supplies they acquire. The supplies are weighed and tracked in order to make sure they are going to the right cause. The food bank then shows evidence to Feeding America that the supplies are going to families and people in need.

One thing that stood out to me from this was when Julie said that the Fredericksburg Food Bank would not be able to operate without being a member of Feeding America. For me this reminded me of how the large business and corporations hold all the real power. It just goes to show that although the goal is to end hunger in America, without large business and organizations none of that would be possible.


2 thoughts on “Volunteering at the Fredericksburg Food Bank- Kam Tavarez

  • December 7, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    The power dynamics here, from the national level to the local level, are super interesting. Your presentation also brought light to the idea of “deserving” to eat when so many go hungry. The organization emphasizes how hard working, family-oreiented, and country serving these people are. It is fascinating to note that in terms of health care as well, you cannot qualify for Medicaid without having children.

    Additionally, it is interesting that you noted how aware we are, as a society, to the hunger problem in America, yet we fail to federally address, and rely instead on the generosity of non-profits like Food Banks.

  • December 10, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    I found this experience really interesting. Like with my volunteering experience, it is always interesting when you end up doing something completely unexpected. I have worked at a food bank before, but I never actually knew how it operated so I found that very interesting. I think what you did was great, and although you and Kelsey may not have had a lot of power, it really makes a difference!

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