We’re in Houston for the annual meet up of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. Once a year, about 10,000 registered dietitians meet to learn what’s new in the field and network. The conference officially opens today, but we participated in an interesting per-conference excursion yesterday, a visit to arguably the country’s largest food bank, here in Houston.
The Houston Food Bank, just minutes outside of downtown, is a non-profit organization that collects and distributes food to hunger relief charities. It usually does not hand out food directly to those in need, rather they are served by many charities that rely on the food bank as their source of food.
The food is donated either by individuals or by retailers. The very large warehouse employs about 150 full and part time workers, but most of the work is done by local volunteers. Funding for operations comes from local and national corporations – Chevron, Wal-Mart, Kroger, and others.
About one thousand volunteers sort, pack and re-distribute the food at the food bank every week. We were humbled to see kids as young as ten working alongside their parents sorting and preparing packages for distribution.
We really liked seeing the cold storage room, which had a large amount of unprocessed fruits and vegetables. According to our guide the produce gets turned every 36 hours (meaning that every day and a half, all the stuff in the cold room is gone, and new food comes in). Unfortunately, a lot of junk food is also being distributed to local families.
Overall, the visit was a very eye-opening experience. America is still licking its wounds from the recession of 2008, and the needs of families are greater than ever. Although we have an obesity epidemic in this country, tens of millions of families are also food insecure. If you are fortunate to have enough time and food, consider volunteering at your local community food bank.