wickedwords: (Default)
Which means it was food lifeline day! We were a tad late arriving today, and there was a good sized group gathered--maybe 30 people?--to work on today's project. I'd been wondering what we'd have as it was passed the date for the holiday food drives, and I was hoping whatever it was, we wouldn't have to work in the refrigerated 'volunteer center', which is where we repack the frozen veggies. Today we got to work on a whole new type of repacking: Great Northern Beans.

While food donations themselves are down, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had given Food Lifeline one million dollars with which to purchase food directly for the food banks; through the wonders of modern accounting and tax law, the organization could use it to buy what would be about nine million dollars worth of retail-priced food. The beans--a great protein source and not subject to salmonella recall--were the first purchase from that new program.

The beans come in palates of huge 100lb bags, which have to be cut open and the beans repacked into small 1lb bags for distribution to the food banks. It was some of the cleanest repacking we'd done where we had to completely suit up in food handler outfits--gloves, plastic apron, and hairnet. A lot of the grocery and farm rescue stuff comes in with really bad food in it (like rotten apples or molding sweet potatoes), and it can be a little disgusting. The beans though were all clean and dry, and sure there was the occasional twig, stray bit of corn, or unknown dirt-like thing, it was easy to pull out and toss aside without sticking your hand into something gross. The only thing to really complain about was that we were really cold the whole time, as we were working in the unheated part of the warehouse. But even that wasn't bad, as it was still warmer than the refrigerated section!

Anyway, the group did great. We packed up 43 1/2 of those 100lb bags, meaning we parceled out about 4350 lbs (a bit over two tons) into the smaller, family-sized servings, enough for nearly 3400 meals in the way they measure these things.

Though I'm not sure anyone wants to eat that many beans.
wickedwords: (W for wickedwords)
Why is it that Food Lifeline days always wipe me out? We had the largest group of people that I have worked with (my kid's middle school group, a law firm, and a Seattle Works group). I think we had over 40 people on the lines, sorting through crates of rescued apples for 2 1/5 hours, and putting them into boxes holding about 40 lbs of apples. (Lar and I sorted apples, while Ev loaded finished boxes on the pallets, for later loading onto the truck.)

The volunteer coordinator said that they'd been having a record number of volunteers in the past couple of months, which is excellent news. They can really use the help, as the quicker they do things like this--sort the bad apples from the good--the quicker it can get out to people's tables, and the less the chance that even more apples will rot before people can eat them.

When we were done, we had about 22 pallets, which is a full semi truck load. So we processed about 22,000 lbs of apples -- 11 tons -- which would be about 17,000 meals (if the meals consisted only of apples.) The 'ick' factor on this one was pretty high, as some of the apples had started to rot, and every now and then, you'd go to pick up one, checking it for major issues, and find that the half you couldn't see at first had turned completely to mush.

After, we stopped at Burgermaster for lunch, which is an old fashioned drive-in just off of 520 on the seattle eastside. We pulled in and parked for a 'dine in your car experience'. We chatted and listened to NPR, and at some point, I noticed that this bright green mercedes had pulled in and parked across from us.

"Hey, that guy looks like Bill Gates," I said.

"He is Bill Gates," Lar replied.

"Bill Gates!" my son gurgled, hiding himself in the back seat behind me.

Bill was apparently being a dad today, going out and picking up burgers and shakes for the family at the drive in. It was kinda cool to see him hanging out like the rest of us, except that his car was a lot nicer and cleaner than anyone else's, and no microsoft parking stickers in sight. He eventually drove off with his to-go order while we ate our burgers, and then we headed back to the house.

It was a pretty fun day.
wickedwords: (Default)
We missed the September go-round, and for October, they had a big group from another organization and had to cancel out our group, as it would have been too many people for them to handle. So this was the first volunteer slot of the new school year, and we had a lot of people show up. Our co-workers were kids from another high school, part of the ski and snowboard program, and they brought a small busload with them. So we ended up repackaging Nabisco products, trying to put an assortment of cookies and crackers--and the occasional tub of cheese wiz or granola bar--into packages for distribution to the food banks. We moved over 18K pounds--well over 9 tons--or material, and then we did another 1K of repackaging of Carribean Bread Mix, so that the manufacturer's logo isn't displayed. (Why? I don't know. But apparently remaindering your high-end, limited edition bread mix to a food bank is something you don't want your label on.)

So I have a bunch of paper cuts from breaking down cardboard, but it was a very satisfying shift. Just think, 14K meals will be sent to people who are 'food insecure' out of this. That's a lot of help.
wickedwords: (biking)
On Saturday, I went to the kick-off for the Tour de Cure. The TdC is a series of fund-raising cycling events held to benefit the American Diabetes Association. I signed up for it last year, and [livejournal.com profile] sherrold, her partner and I did the 45 mile loop, which was a real killer for me at the time. I am hoping to be in better shape for it this year.

Anyway, the kick-off was fun. Fruit and Vitamin Water were provided, and there were a few fun gifts--I now have an extra couple of extra water bottles and a Cycle University T-Shirt for my time, not to mention a cute little band-aid container.

But it wasn't just about stuff. In addition to the inspirational speaker, the bike fit speaker, and the speaker who told us how to set up our fund-raising, there was a guy--Gregg Bleakney--who'd ridden from Alaska to Argentina to raise money for Diabetes research. That was an amazing presentation. It took him two years to do it as he could a month off on occasion to just get off the bike and do different things. He went everywhere, and yes, he did go places he shouldn't have gone. He was a great speaker, and the photos were incredible. He started off with a little point-and-shoot at the beginning, but by the end, he'd picked up photography as a hobby and the pictures of the Andes were amazing. I was really happy that I'd gone, just to hear about this guy's journey and to see the pictures he'd brought back. Here's the local paper's article about his trip.

The guys from Cycle University were there,too, recapping last years ride as well as laying out the training for this year. One of the guys mentioned that people were surprised by the amount of hill climbing on the routes, and that all the routes over 20 miles had some serious hills. Plus there was a significant headwind no matter which direction you rode. *g* It was nice to know that I wasn't the only one who thought that about the ride. Hopefully there won't be as much wind this year, and also no rain.

If you'd like to contribute to the ADA through my ride, this is My Fund Raising Page. Any amount you'd care to contribute would be great.
wickedwords: (Default)
It's the first Saturday of the month, so that's the day we often go help with Food Lifeline. Today we had 2 other volunteer groups with us, including one that was doing a team building exercise for a church mission in Haiti. They were hugely enthusiastic and I'm afraid their eagerness and go-gettem attitude made my head hurt; I felt very old and grumpy by the end of the shift, while they were still all eager and wide eyed, challenging each other as to which of their groups would box up the most frozen corn.

And as they'd made some changes in how the frozen foods were repackaged, we got to work in the heated part of the warehouse, and those efficiencies helped a lot. I don't know if it was more the new process or the new volunteer's enthusiasm, but we repackaged more corn than we'd ever done before in a three hour shift and we got to take a full 15 minute break. I have no idea who won the church's self-challenge, but all the volunteers together packed up almost 10,000 lbs of frozen corn, enough for over 7,000 meals.

If, you know, you were gonna only eat corn. *g*

My hands were frozen by the end of my shift, just like the corn, and I really loved taking a nice hot bath and thawing out. Now, though, I think it's ice cream time, and finally a chance to watch last night's ep of Atlantis.
wickedwords: (biking)
The Tour de Cure is a fund-raising event for the American Diabetes Association, and is a series of cycling events held in over 80 cities nationwide. The Tour is a ride, not a race; it features different route lengths from a leisurely 10-mile course to a demanding 100-mile journey. I cycled the 45 mile route last year, and I plan on doing it again this year, provided it's not raining or other seriously bad weather. I reserve the right to wimp out and just do the 15 flat if that happens, as there are major hills on the route and May weather is notoriously bad.
wickedwords: (eeyore oh dear)
We ended up not doing food lifeline today for two reasons: we were exhausted and overslept, plus apparently they had changed the location of the get together today, and I didn't get the emails. Lar was able to dig them out of his trash, so we got the details eventually, but it was too late to make our shift.

The reason for the switch in location is that Food Lifeline had a huge donation of canned goods given to them, but this donation included canned goods that were under recall. So there were morning and afternoon shifts today at the south Seattle distribution center, not the north end one where we usually go, to painstakingly sort through the canned items, pulling anything that was on the recall list. There are thousands of cans and hundreds of pallets to go through, so it was sent out as an emergency 'all hands on deck' arrangement for meeting at 9 am today--and we didn't make it, which I feel very guilty about. Yet it did not stop me from watching SGA and reading my Flist once I knew we couldn't get there in time.

Is it any wonder that today's essay on [livejournal.com profile] 14valentines is about Hunger? The irony right now is intense.
wickedwords: (W for wickedwords)
Today was Food Lifeline day, and the project we got to work on was NOT in the freezer for once. Instead, we spent the morning assembling bags for the Share Your Feast food drive, and while the picture on the main website does not our group, it does show what we had to do. Each $10 bag of groceries contains a box of corn flakes, 3 boxes of mac and cheese, a large can of tomatoes, 2 cans of tuna, a jar of peanut butter, a can of peaches, and an small bag of spaghetti. Our job was to assemble the bags from the flats of food, and staple them closed for distribution out to local area QFCs.

We moved over 11K lbs of food, about 8600 meals using their calculations, in 988 of the $10 bags. (And we so wanted them to let us go back after the count to do those last 12 so we could make it an ever 1000) I acted as a runner for one of the assembly tables for the first hour, hauling flats of food from the big pallets to the table. It was sweaty work, which was fine, as the warehouse is kinda cool (but not freezing like the freezer section!) So my arms are kinda achy, but I figure I moved about 3K lbs of food either running it from the pallets or stuffing it in bags. I love doing that.

the adventure's not over )

Squash!

Oct. 6th, 2007 07:49 pm
wickedwords: (purple burst)
Today we got to spend out 3 hours at Food Lifeline breaking up blocks of frozen diced squash and repacking them into 3 lb bags for distribution to local food banks. We had a lot of people as a bunch of Rotarians were also working on our volunteer shift (Wa Mu works the same time slot as well.) We ended up repacking about 5580 lbs of squash, which counts as part of around 4000 meals.

So my day consists of moving about 3.5 tons of squash, eating lunch, and buying a new mattress. I just got to eat dinner, and soon I will ice my heel. It's been annoying me after all of the standing.

Oh, and I finally got to sit down and watch SGA. So yay. Now I can read all of those comments that I have set aside.
wickedwords: (purple mirror)
Today was Food Lifeline day, and fortunately, we didn't have to work in the freezer section. so while the regular warehouse portion is unheated, it is still warmer than the freezer--though I was very chilled by the time we were done, and I still feel a bit chilled now.

(Pause for a moment to get a couple of thin mints and some decaf tea.)

Ah. Much better.

Due to illness (and a couple of the kids being requested not to return due to bad behavior last time), we were down to 12 people this week. Our project was a huge donation of Minute Maid juice boxes from Coca-Cola, which were factory seconds. The boxes had a printing error on then, so our job was to open the flats of juice boxes (44 per flat), and stick a sticker on them that said 'correction: vitamin A 0%.' Then we resealed the flats and put them on a pallet for later transport. E got to use the shrink wrap stuff for the first time when the pallets were complete, which was pretty cool.

I really don't know how many boxes I handled, or how many flats I put up. We processed 5400 lbs of juice, which was around 4000 meals? I didn't get the exact numbers this time. It was a lot of fun though, as mindless activity goes. And now I have a new sticker to add to my car's collection. *g*
wickedwords: (purple burst)
It's the first Saturday of the month, so we pilgrimaged to Food Lifeline as part of Ev's community service requirement. This is the third time we're done this, and I am really starting to enjoy the process. I'm glad the shifts only last three hours, as I'm not up to being a full-time warehouseman, to to play one for a day is awfully fun.

Today we got to repackage frozen corn cobbettes, and the process was slightly different from re-packaging the carrots. Rather than having one palette of corn and then bucketing out of it to work tables, and then packaging the 3 lbs bags on the tables, this time there were 6 of the large frozen pallets of corn already set up. We would dig the corn out of the bins and stuff them into prelabeled bags, 3 lbs per bag, and then put them in some newly-assembled cardboard boxes, rather than the old banana boxes. One of the volunteers would tape the boxes closed and move them to another pallet to create a 5x5 cube of filled boxes. Once the cube was done, then the full pallet would be moved to the back of the warehouse and labeled, while an empty pallet form was moved in.

In the beginning, I helped people get set up and find their supplies. Since we worked in the freezer section, everyone had to double-glove with the latex gloves as their hands were freezing. We seemed to run out of boxes and labeled bags a lot right at the beginning, so I just kept on doing that for awhile.

But the teen boys that were supposed to close the filled boxes and build the pallet cube sort-of wandered away after the second pallet, so I grabbed a taping gun and started working on that myself. Since we did 240 boxes, I figure I must have moved at least 50-100 of those in order to do the cubes; so I'm guessing I moved somewhere between 1500 and 3000 lbs of corn in order to get everything stacked. I sweated a lot, and had to take off my coat, and my arms are covered with scratches from the cardboard, but I feel like a total stud for doing that.

In the end, there were 28 people that worked on the project. We packed 7200 lbs of corn for distribution out to local food banks, which will be a part of about 5,650 meals.
wickedwords: (Default)
At today's community service event, our group of 21 people got put on processing frozen baby carrots. They have huge frozen pallets of 1200lbs of baby carrot seconds--baby carrots that are either too big or too small to be packaged and sold under whatever the commercial label--and these pallets are left to thaw for a day so that the volunteers can dig the carrots out from the ice.

We have to suit up in standard food processing wear--hair nets, plastic aprons, latex (or latex alternative) gloves--and work in a refrigerated environment for this. About 7-8 kids are working on digging the carrots out of the ice and dumping them into white vats, which are then hauled over to one of the repackaging tables. The volunteers there then scoop the carrots out 3-lbs into plastic bags, weigh them, tie them closed, and put them into a banana box with ten bags per box. At some point, you have run around and label more plastic bags, get more twist ties, clean up the floor with the spilled carrots and melting ice, slice the cardboard down on the pallet so that you can get better access to the carrots, or bring in another huge pallet.

(Our 2nd pallet we only took the top layer from, as it had sat out a little too long, and there was too much water in the bottom.)

We did about 3.5 pallets, 3720 lbs of carrots in total. Enough for around 3000 meals.

Then we dined in our car, came home, and napped. I feel like I put in a really full day.
wickedwords: (Default)
Today was the first Saturday that we spent working for Food Lifeline. My son's school has a 30-hour community service requirement, and one of the opportunities offered is a standing commitment by the school to provide volunteers for three hours of labor on the first Saturday of each month. So we bundled up and went this morning, as the theater we belong to will only provide Ev with about half the hours he needs.

The volunteer center is where they do food distribution and repackaging, which was really interesting. Those of us new to the process got an orientation and a tour before being put to work; our tour was a little rushed, as the coordinator had a birthday party for a nine-year-old girl coming in after us, which I thought was really amazing. 21 volunteers showed up, about half of them kids, to spend their Saturday morning in an unheated warehouse repackaging food.

A lot of the distribution center is set up to handle the big holiday food drive going on right now. In October, volunteers assembled grocery bags full of specific canned goods--tuna, peanut butter, oatmeal, spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, etc--that people would by for $5 and $10, in order to re-donate them to the food bank. (yes, that's right. The food gets donated twice, once by the original grocery outlet and once by the people who pay for the assembled bags of canned goods. The money collected is also donated, so it all works out. It just feels a little weird.)

Today, we got to take the pallets of donated groceries in the warehouse and repackage them for distribution out to the food banks. So I spent about an hour hauling 15 pound bags of canned goods around, grouping them in sets of three bags to the banana box, and sending them to be put on a pallet for distribution. My son got the unenviable task of sorting through all of the loose cans and open bags, sorting them and checking for damaged goods; in addition to the preset bags, people donated a lot of other items to the food barrels, including a stuffed pony. Ev then put the good stuff into a separate cart, so someone else could package it all up as like items, and then threw away all of the open containers. (Dented canned goods are handled separately, with some of them ending up as pig food.)

Once we had finished with all of the food drive canned goods, we got to move on to second harvest yams. There was a huge box of yams and yam pieces, which had to be sorted through for the good bits. L worked on this section, as I helped clean and set up for the second set of repackaging we needed to do, and moldy yams are really so not my thing. They put the good yams in a banana box while the bad ones got tossed into the composting, and I have no idea where it went after that. I imagine it's more pig food.

The last thing we did was to repackage a specialty baking mix. These had been sample mixes that a company donated to Food Lifeline, but part of the process is to remove identifying information from the packages. (My guess is that premium food manufacturers don't want to have their products associated with not selling well, or overstocks, or things of that nature, which could happen if they are seen sitting around on food bank shelves in bulk.) So we opened the case, pulled out the boxes and opened them, dumped the contents into a plastic bag that had been labeled with the ingredients, tie it closed and stuff 12 of them back into each case, sealing them and labeling them for the food banks. I seriously felt like I was back in my summer job as a cannery worker, only without the smell. We had an amazing assembly line going, which included breaking down all of the cardboard packaging for recycling, and finished off almost 3 pallets (or maybe 4) of the mix.

They do a wrap-up at the end of each shift, and we had moved between 6 and 7 tons of food, which would be part of 13,000 meals. It was a great experience, and I think we'll continue to do this, at least through the rest of the school year.

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