Second Harvest

in All Posts

Afternoon! My volunteering stint at Second Harvest was rewarding and very eye-opening.


I arrived at Second Harvest and was greeted warmly by the two volunteer coordinators.  Myself and two other new volunteers toured the facilities and learned about Second Harvest’s mission.


Did you know that the average family of four who seeks food assistance from Second Harvest is living off of $19,000 a year?  That’s hard for me to imagine.


We watched an introductory video and learned that one of the challenges faced by Second Harvest was providing people with nutritious foods, especially protein.  Part of the issue is that the food must be non-perishable.  As a result, a LOT of the donated foods are simple carbs or extremely processed.


The first thing I did as a volunteer was work with a group of 6th graders who were on a "community service field trip."  Normally, kids scare me, but I can handle 12 year olds!  My Twilight addiction paid off as I had a lot to discuss with the young girls. 🙂


I helped the kids sort through dozens of boxes of food donated by local stores and supermarkets.  We had to check to make sure the food wasn’t damaged or expired.


I noticed that a LOT of the supermarket-donated food was unhealthy junk food.  I hope this is just a fluke and the stores donate healthier foods, too! (I’m sure they do).


Using the abundance of junk food as an example, I talked to the kids about types of healthy food they could ask their parents to donate.  They had some really good ideas, too! Suggestions included:  canned beans, vegetables, and fruit; canned meats like chicken and tuna; and bags of rice.


After the kids left, I helped about a dozen other volunteers sort through individual-donated boxes.  These items seemed to be much healthier overall.  We sorted the donated items into jars, canned goods, and dry goods.


All in all, Second Harvest was a great experience.  It felt good to be a volunteer again.  However, I was saddened by the lack of healthy food AND the lack of food in general.  Central Florida’s Second Harvest is currently experiencing one of their lowest food supplies EVER.  The coordinators said it’s due to the economic crisis.


I urge you to donate to your local food bank.  Every little bit helps!  Food banks especially need items such as:


  • Canned protein (beans, chicken, tuna)
  • Canned vegetables or fruits
  • Brown rice , oatmeal, and other complex carbs
  • Baby food
  • MONEY!


I came home and felt VERY BLESSED to be able to prepare a nutritious and delicious meal.


I made a Flat Out Spinach Wrap with a veggie burger, cheddar cheese, and Romaine.


And a side of melon and carrots:


Off to do chores and RUN a 4.0 miler!  Have a great afternoon.


What kind of community service do you find most rewarding?



  • VeggieGirl March 27, 2009, 11:06 am

    Kudos for donating your time and effort to such a crucial cause – it really makes you think about just how many people are in need, all over the world (not just in a local area).

    I volunteer at my local animal protective league, and find it to be incredibly rewarding.

  • fitforfree March 27, 2009, 11:12 am

    What an awesome experience—sad, though, that there’s so much junk food! The most rewarding community service projects I’ve done have involved work with youth—tutoring, mentoring, etc. You see the immediate (and long-term) effects of your effort. There’s nothing like it.

  • Runeatrepeat March 27, 2009, 11:12 am

    Your meals and snacks are always so healthy! I wish I was that consistent with healthy meals.

    Great job volunteering!

  • aron March 27, 2009, 11:14 am

    that is so awesome of you to go volunteer 🙂

    i used to volunteer every weekend at a local animal shelter socializing the cats and dogs that were up for adoption. it was so fun and i always felt so good after 🙂

  • Krista March 27, 2009, 11:17 am

    Sounds like you had a fantastic morning!!! I giggled when you said that kids scare you! 🙂 By the sounds of it, you were a hit! My daughter and I have worked at our local food bank in the past and it is an eye opener for sure! Where I live big paper bags are sent out with the mail 4 times a year urging people to fill them up with not just food, but toiltries as well. There are many drop off locations. I make sure to fill every bag I get up plus we donate throughout the year. I’m glad it was a good experience for you!

  • ksgoodeats March 27, 2009, 11:22 am

    That is a fabulous wrap!

    Be proud of your time spent there! Every volunteer in ANYTHING helps immensely! It is truly sad that at a time when people need to most help, donations are often the first thing cut 🙁

  • Jen March 27, 2009, 11:25 am

    Wow, that is so great of you to have done that, and to talk to the kids about what would be good for their families to donate. My parents donated their girl scout cookies to the local homeless shelter and I complained that they should be donating healthy food, not junk food (though delicious!) that they don’t want to eat themselves!

    Honestly, you taking part in this makes me think I should volunteer at my local branch of Manna Food bank, I’m sure they could use the help.

  • Amanda March 27, 2009, 11:35 am

    In college last year I volunteered at a no-kill dog shelter in the town. There were up to 90 dogs there at one time, and 2 friends and I would go and walk a total of about 15 dogs. Each day they had a checklist to make sure every dog was walked!!! I ended up finding a dog for my boyfriend and my parents through the shelter, so I was so happy to place those cute pups 🙂 Soo rewarding!

  • hjlongmo March 27, 2009, 11:38 am

    I think donating blood is one of the easiest ways to give back. Just like food banks, there is always a shortage of blood for transfusions – so take that hour and go save three lives with a blood donation!

  • Dori March 27, 2009, 11:44 am

    I went to a magnet school for community service in middle school, and we went to schools for children with autism and other mental disorders. It was rewarding — the kids were very sweet and really appreciated us being there and helping them. If I was to volunteer now though, I think I would work on helping young children with reading and writing assignments.

  • UVAJess March 27, 2009, 11:46 am

    I donate to my church’s food bank every week with HEALTHY food!

  • therunningaddict March 27, 2009, 11:50 am

    Anything involving children. I do tutoring at home and its a true pleasure

  • Eliza March 27, 2009, 11:51 am

    Thanks for volunteering! Every time we grocery shop we grab a couple cans of veggies/fruit and toss them in the donation box by the door. Its not much but we’re helping a little, I guess.

  • Courtney (The Hungry Yogini) March 27, 2009, 11:55 am

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Inspiring! So sad that so many families go without healthy food. It makes me so thankful for what I do have.

  • runsarah March 27, 2009, 11:58 am

    Awesome post- thanks for sharing! I organize a project that does workshops on STIs for the homeless. We try to keep our snacks healthy like soft granola bars, unsweetened apple sauce and tuna and crackers.

    We will be pairing with a grassroots organization for our next workshop which doesn’t allow any processsed food to be given as they feel strongly that just because people are homeless or low income, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be offered a healthy choice. We will likely be preparing smoothies and hummus and pitas with them. I am really excited!

  • RunningWithin March 27, 2009, 12:02 pm

    I used to volunteer at Alzheimers homes all the time when I was younger, it’s sad how many people abandon their families at those places and never visit, not even on holidays. It’s the most rewarding experience to see how happy it makes the people there when you just play a game with them or sing to them, it’s also a very sad sight to see their mental decline.

    I think that’s really great that you donated your time today! Not enough people do that, kudos to you for setting such a great example!

  • RunningWithin March 27, 2009, 12:03 pm

    By the way, kids scare me too : )

  • Rose March 27, 2009, 12:48 pm

    As someone looking to do more community service, I really enjoyed this post.

  • Melissa March 27, 2009, 12:48 pm

    Great job on the volunteering! It is always so sad that people have to go hungry, and then when they get food it has little nutritional value.

  • tfh March 27, 2009, 1:04 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experience– sounds like you were great with the kids! It’s also good to remember that even those of us who don’t have a lot of $$$ to spare can give time. Good for you!

  • redheadedjournal March 27, 2009, 1:08 pm

    I work for a non-profit so hopefully that counts towards my community service! 🙂

  • Mara @ What's For Dinner? March 27, 2009, 1:09 pm

    I love that you’re doing this! It’s so cool!

  • BOBBI McCORMICK March 27, 2009, 2:18 pm
  • Niki March 27, 2009, 2:56 pm

    Just found your blog by way of Bobbi’s blog:) I have really enjoyed reading! I think it’s great that your are volunteering your time!!

  • emily March 27, 2009, 3:12 pm

    That’s great that you donated your time and are getting the word out about a program that needs support! I had never thought to volunteer time at a food bank, I will definitly look into it now.

  • priyankalovesfood March 27, 2009, 3:15 pm

    Great job on volunteering!

    I am planning to start volunteer work soon with Mobile meals to deliver food to Elderly couple!

  • lilveggiepatch March 27, 2009, 3:31 pm

    You probably saw this article in Time a few summers ago, but it’s pretty interesting.,29307,1626519,00.html

    Thanks for bringing up the fact that while food does get donated (although not NEARLY enough!) it’s rarely healthy.

    I work in a soup kitchen when I’m home every weekend… almost everything is home made and we provide a balanced, thanks to grocery stores and chain stores (like Starbucks) that donate their excess.

  • Sara March 27, 2009, 4:32 pm

    It is sad that so much junk food gets donated. That is great that you were able to volunteer.

    Your foods look so great!

    The community service I have done that has been most rewarding was helping sand-bag during a flood when I was younger. We also did some food bagging then. I really also enjoy tutoring.

  • Michelle March 27, 2009, 5:03 pm

    Good on you for 1. vol 2. talking to the kids about healthy donation 3. raising it in your blog. It’s a huge issue and so much research and stats prove that you can correlate poverty with obesity. It’s disgusting that out nations poorest and most needy are the ones who usually eat the worst, for a host of reasons.

    I am thinking about visiting a friend who’s running a clinic and school in Timor for 2 weeks in July. Foreign work is what gets me most excited.


  • RunToFinish March 27, 2009, 5:40 pm

    It is sad that the free food they are able to get is not very high in nutritional value.

    kudos to you for stepping up! It’s been awhile since I’ve given my time and I need to think about that

  • Trish March 27, 2009, 5:58 pm

    That’s so awesome of you to give of your time like that. I used to volunteer at Children’s Hospital in Boston – I was always on the baby floor! I loved holding them and pushing them around in their strollers. So cute! 🙂 It was nice to be able to be there with them, keep them company while they were away from home.

  • Meg March 27, 2009, 6:13 pm

    What a great way to donate your time. My favorite community service is helping out at the Special Olympics.

  • jane March 27, 2009, 6:19 pm

    i agree, it’s very disheartening to see how unhealthy the food is that is donated. obviously it’s better than nothing, but it’s a sad reflection on how poorly our society eats, cause that processed crap is what’s in 80% of the average grocery store. my mom saw on a cnn news report that food banks were asking for more donations and the top foods they requested were JELLO and MEAT. seriously? jello?

  • Brandi March 27, 2009, 7:08 pm

    that’s awesome that you went to volunteer today! food banks around the country are in so much need of food; it’s crazy.

    i think any type of volunteering is rewarding, not only to the the people you’re helping, but it opens your eyes to something bigger than yourself.

  • livelovelaugheatlearn March 28, 2009, 6:03 am

    I read a really interesting paper on the situation of food banks here in Ontario. It was amazing how quickly the economic crisis caused so many more people to have to rely on food banks. And because of the economic crisis, companies that used to donate food cannot afford to anymore. It’s a vicious cycle.

    Great post Caitlin!

Previous post:

Next post:

Healthy Tipping Point