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BANK ON IT: Food Bank For New York City's Blog

Through the Eyes of a Volunteer

By O’Neill Hutchinson

It’s 3:15 pm on a Monday afternoon and I’m strolling into the Food Bank’s Community Kitchen in West Harlem,  where I volunteer three days a week. I stop for a moment to look at the menu. It’s chicken day: curried chicken with rice and broccoli, fresh baked bread, apples, salad and juice.

When I notice the date, I do a double take. My mind races a bit, I check again, and it’s the second to last week of the month. This is about the time every month when our lines really grow, as many New Yorkers struggle to stretch their budgets till the end of the month. At about 4 pm it’s going to get crazy in here, and I have to mentally I prepare myself.

A favorite pastime of some of the clients is to compare the plates to see which is bigger. They’re pretty much all the same but when you’re turning to a soup kitchen because you can’t afford a full month’s worth of groceries, a small difference can feel really big.

The absolute best part for me is when the clients finish eating and they walk by the serving table to say “Thank you, that hit the spot,” or “My compliments to the chef.” Or looking over the table and seeing the smile on their faces while they eat…that’s something I take with me. It brings satisfaction knowing it’s a job well done.

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Comments (Comment Moderation is enabled. Your comment will not appear until approved.)
Ajlouny's Gravatar There is always a perk and satisfaction from volunteering. It's interesting to me that you've noticed the crunch mid month. It's a huge reflection of our economy and how people are learning to adapt to survive.
# Posted By Ajlouny | 6/11/09 11:34 PM
Jesse's Gravatar Excellent post O'Neill, thanks for sharing your experience at the Community Kitchen.

I want to chime in here to clarify O'Neill's comment about mid-month soup kitchen line increases. Generally speaking, public benefits, e.g., food stamps, usually are not provided in sums sufficient to make ends meet for an entire month, hence public benefits run low or run out mid-month and soup kitchens and food pantries experience an increase in participation.

This is not a new phenomenon and while we have seen a 30+% increase in need over the last year, when the second half of the month arrives, there are just that many more people to feed.
# Posted By Jesse | 6/12/09 10:52 AM
Farzana Edward's Gravatar That's awesome .I am a volunteer by myself ,andI know exactly what are you talking about.Thanks for sharing your expireance with us.Its a bit hard time for a lot of New Yorkers to deal with this financial crisis.But if any body can be nice or helpful to any body it will pay by it self as you have said with their thankful eyes or beautiful smile.Keep up the good work.God bless
# Posted By Farzana Edward | 4/3/10 12:17 AM
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