IFES Helps Pack 1360 Meals for DC Schoolchildren
On Saturday, May 23, 2009, six IFES staff members and some of their relatives spent the morning volunteering at Washington, DC's Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB).
The CAFB is the largest, public nonprofit hunger and nutrition education resource in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Each year the CAFB distributes 20 million pounds of food to over 700 partner agencies. In addition to food distribution, the CAFB has several community-building initiatives that include nutrition classes.
IFES staff helped pack bags of food for the Weekend Bag Program. Low-income DC school children are provided breakfast and lunch during school days. A bag with enough food to last them through the weekend is given to each of these children on Friday afternoon to hold them until they return to their school meals on Monday.
To complete this task, IFES' group was partnered with another organization, One Brick. Between the two groups, there were about 30 volunteers. The CAFB staff showed the participants how to organize themselves to make the most of the time they would spend there. The volunteers did not stop working until the food they were given to fill the bags ran out. In total, they put together 1360 bags.
After a day of dedicated work that was filled with laughter, the participants walked out with a sense of accomplishment and much insight.
"My friends and I often talk about how good it feels to donate money, but the feeling we got after packing all of those bags on Saturday was more satisfying than donating money. On our way back home from the bank, the family members who joined me and I talked about our experience. We realized that you can donate money for food or supplies, but people are still needed to put together and distribute what that money bought," said Josie Levongala Nova-Martinez, IFES human resources generalist and recruiter.
Laura Osio, IFES press officer, added: "It was a lot of fun to run around the food bank putting the bags together and to get to know some of the other volunteers, but above all, it felt very good to feel like we were participating in the lives of DC school children even if it was in a tiny way."
Jeff Brady, IFES senior outreach manager, organized the trip to the food bank. He saw it as a way for IFES to become more engaged in the community and for his colleagues to have a taste of something he has long enjoyed doing.
"I know how difficult it can be to find the right opportunity to volunteer. Having served at the food bank before, it was easy to set this up and I knew the colleagues who joined me and the community where we work would appreciate our efforts," said Brady.
The experience was so successful that the IFES staff urged Brady to continue organizing volunteering activities.
"Volunteering was a great way to spend quality time with our fellow volunteers, one of which was my husband. It was also a great way to interact with our IFES colleagues. Jeff deserves to be commended for this. He is a great leader who helped foster a feeling of involvement and togetherness in all of us. I look forward to doing it again soon," said Minerva Banga, IFES accounts payable associate.
Brady, who believes it is important to give back to others, is happy to oblige his colleagues.