I got to volunteer in the warehouse of the Greater Chicago Food Depository earlier this week. I spent Tuesday afternoon with a bunch of co-workers making up bags of food that kids could take home over the weekend as part of the food bank’s “Nourish for Knowledge” program. We got to get out of the office for a few hours, and do something useful. I tried to convince my colleagues that we deserved a trip to the Krispy Kreme just down the road (actually I just looked it up and they’re closed now — fuck!) but everybody thought I was joking. Don’t these folks know that I simply do not joke around when it comes to doughnuts?
We arrived at the Food Depository about 30 minutes early for orientation. The orientation room was full of long tables and chairs where we sat and checked smartphones. A group of elderly volunteers ate lunch a few tables away. They had matching t-shirts. Why didn’t we have matching t-shirts? We were soon joined by a couple of individual volunteers, and a group of high school girls.
A young blond man who looked about twelve years old arrived, introducing himself and thanking us for our time. He explained that they distribute food to agencies all over Chicago and Cook County. They receive donations from corporations, the government, private donors, and food drives. They distribute about 1,000,000 pounds of food per week, serving about 142,000 people in all. They have seen a 38% increase in need for food since last year. Holy shit. That is a lot of hungry people. So, um, please donate funds or food. Find out how to do that here.
He finished by explaining we’d be split into the two groups. The high school kids were labeling blank packages of donated food because, believe it or not, people like it when they know what they are eating. Especially people with allergies. So damn picky, those allergic people. Anyway, the rest of us were making up bags of food for their “Nourish for Knowledge” program. Nourish for Knowledge gives kids in need bags of food to take home at the end of the school week. The bags should be sufficient to get them through the weekend until the next school week, at which point they are fed by school breakfast and lunch programs. At least, that’s how I understand it to work.
(I remember free school lunches during my stint in the New York public school system. Hopefully the food’s improved since 1988 when I left P.S. 7/I.S. 171 for the nascent foodie heaven that was the Brearley school cafeteria.)
We didn’t get to use the shiny conveyor belt roller thingies to pack bags full of packets of instant oatmeal, granola bars, pretzel sticks, sunflower seeds, boxes of chocolate milk, and microwaveable soup. We organized our snacks into groups of 20, packing them into 20 bags that would each make up one box. I got a box cutter so I could slash open boxes of pretzel rods, discarding boxes and plastic wrap as I worked to count and sort my bags into pairs. 40 packets, 2 in each bag, 20 bags in each box. We stood at large metal tables the tops of which were angled to a covered hole which made me think we could perform autopsies on these tables if we had to. But we did not. We packed, talked, and before we knew it our team leader Lenard told us we were done, and thanked us for all our hard work.
We worked for a good three hours, packing up 1,160 bags before we drove back to the office. There was a blue mannequin wearing badges and signs of how to dress properly for work in the warehouse. Sadly, my iPhone was locked up in an, um, locker, so I didn’t get a picture of me mugging with it.
Because no good deed of mine should go unrewarded, I got my nails done Tuesday evening. Chanel Particulière on my fingers, Chanel Orange Fizz on my toes. My fingertips are the color of mushroom soup. But as it is Chanel nail polish, it must be very expensive mushroom soup. Maybe truffle soup. Behold and be enraptured: