Recently, several co-workers and I participated in Rasmussen College’s Community Service Day. It gave team members from every campus the opportunity to give back to the community by participating in a local community service event.
The last time I actively participated in a service event was when I lived in Florida, and although I was happy to join in the service activity, I was also reticent; my e-mail was piling up, and I was in the middle of several projects that I could have used some quiet time to plow through. Still, I had committed, and it would be a nice break from the typical work routine.
Our office served at Second Harvest Heartland, the largest hunger relief organization in the Upper Midwest. I’ve donated to Second Harvest in the past – $10 here and there – thinking it was a local food bank serving dinners and providing canned foods. I was only half right. Second Harvest Heartland collects, warehouses, and distributes more than 70 million pounds of food annually to schools, shelters, shelves, and WIC programs. And, they do that with only eight full-time employees, which make volunteer groups vital.
Upon arrival, we were split into two groups. One group was responsible for sorting canned foods onto pallets. The food didn’t have labels, so the cans had to be sorted by a code printed on the cans. The group in which I participated was responsible for bagging rice. So what, right? Well, not exactly. We were responsible for breaking down a 1-ton bag of rice into 1-pound packages. That’s 2,000 bags of rice, give or take. We eagerly donned our hairnets and began scooping, measuring, and sealing bags to be stored and eventually delivered.
It’s easy, on your 50th bag of rice or so, to get into a rhythm, and let your mind wander to other things. Even now, you might be reading about 2,000 pounds of rice and not realize the true scale of resources provided by Second Harvest. I wanted to write this blog, in part as a reminder to myself of what we were really doing in that warehouse amidst the chatter and laughter:
- 1 pound of rice is about 2 cups of rice cooked, or about 4 side-servings of rice.
- According to Feeding America and the USDA, 48.8 million Americans lived in food insecure households in 2010.
- Food insecurity exists in every county in America.
- Hunger is the world’s number 1 health risk, killing more people than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. That’s according to the World Food Program.
- 1 in 6 kids in MN is at risk of hunger.
- 1 in 7 people in the world will go to sleep hungry tonight.
We finished the bag of rice that we started on Friday and went about our days – home to family meals and out to dinners that many folks, some of them our neighbors, never see. As for Second Harvest Heartland, another 12 tons of rice are waiting for the next round of volunteers.
I am blessed that I have never experienced hunger, and more so blessed that I was given the opportunity to reflect on that while helping those who do, albeit in a small way. I am grateful to work for a college that gives back to the community and for Second Harvest Heartland for the resources and services they provide for millions of men, women, and children.
To see more pictures from the Rasmussen College Community Service Day, please visit our Facebook page.