“Together We Can Solve Hunger”: An Outing to the Capital Area Food Bank

On a rainy Saturday afternoon in December, 13 members of the DC Shambhala Center met at the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) on Puerto Rico Drive, N.E. for a 3-hour volunteer shift sorting donated food. CAFB is the largest organization in the Washington metro area working to solve hunger and its companion problems of undernutrition, heart disease, and obesity. Each year it helps 540,000 people in our area get access to good, healthy food.

This afternoon of volunteering is a great example of how we can reach out and offer our exertion and good heart to make a difference in our communities. We needn’t feel that we must create whole programs from scratch—in many cases we can simply look around to find a program or organization that is already effectively making an impact on issues that Teaam Shambhala DC group photomatter to us and ask, “How can we help?”

“Team Shambhala DC,” as we were called for the afternoon, was organized by Jayne Sutton. In anticipation of the event, we had some Shambhala T-shirts made. After donning our shirts, we were told that we were the first “meditation group” that had volunteered there. Then one of the staff volunteer coordinators gave us an orientation talk and then led us into the large warehouse. It was filled with shelving from floor to incredibly high ceilings and dozens of labeled bins. This is when our guide proceeded to give us detailed instructions (which he warned us we would definitely forget!) on just which types of food items were and were not to be place in each bin.  Our guide, though quite serious about those bins, was quite patient, good-natured, and humorous.

As there were a large number of volunteers that afternoon, we were able to sort the accumulated donations in the main room within about 30-40 minutes. Time for Phase II! In this phase, we walked over to another room, where we then sorted one of the larger categories of food–dry goods–into more specific bins (e.g., rice & pasta, coffee & tea). Again, with so many volunteers present (and with a bit more experience under our belts now), we cut through that in about 20 more minutes and actually wrapped up an hour early. It ended up being quite an enjoyable rota.

        Volunteers at work

Before departing, we were encouraged by our coordinator to avail ourselves of the “Dip Jar”, which was a little machine that we could “dip” a credit or debit card into and make an automatic donation of $10 to the CAFB. Some CAFB T-shirts were purchased as well. All in all, it was a quite enjoyable and gratifying way to spend a few hours on a rainy afternoon. We plan to schedule another outing, perhaps in the Spring, so keep an eye out for an invite!

If you’d like to learn more about the Capital Area Food Bank, make a donation, or sign up to volunteer, visit their website: www.capitalareafoodbank.org