Studying Food Insecurity and Volunteering at the Brooktondale Food Pantry – Capstone Project for Sustainable Farming and Food Systems – by Candice
I decided to do my Capstone project on food insecurity and how it related to families living in poverty. For this project, I researched how easy it is to sink into poverty and how hard it is to get back to a stable financial life. I have also been volunteering my time at a local food pantry located right in Brooktondale. You may think that a normal food pantry just gives out food to families in need, but this one does a lot more than just giving out food. The Brooktondale Food Pantry has a full kitchen where it gives kids a chance to learn how to cook, and they have a full garden out back where they grow all of their vegetables for the kitchen and to give away at the food pantry.
One of the tasks that is included in volunteering at the Brooktondale Food Pantry is unloading vegetables and meats from the Southern Tier food truck that comes to Brooktondale and drops off donations. We have to sort everything out – all the meats go together, all the cereals go together, veggies go together and so on. Then we must inspect everything, this includes writing the date on our inventory sheet that it came to pantry and the date that it will be put out for families to take. We also have to check the expiration date and check to see if the product is damaged in any way. If it is damaged or out of date it gets put back on the truck. This is a food safety precaution that we have to follow. Some of the donations such as local fruits and vegetables are given to us from local farmers from Dryden, Cortland, Brooktondale and even Ithaca. We also have been receiving a truck full of different kinds of breads from the Ithaca Bakery.
After everything is inspected and ready to be put away we take inventory of what we already have on our shelves and what can be given out so we can make more room for what is coming in (how much of each product, the date it came in, the date it will be distributed and how many of each product we got). We also have to reorganize the freezers and shelves because the stuff that comes in has be put towards the back so that the older stuff gets used up first.
Another food safety precaution that we have to take every time we are using any of the tables or shelves is to sanitize the kitchen and wash the veggies and fruits and let them dry. We then weigh them and package them in individual bags for the families. After all the food is cleaned up and put away we have to mop the kitchen, get the tables put up and washed down as well as sanitized again. Then we get the scales out to start the prepping process for the families to come get their groceries. We have baby items set up for them as well which include diapers, wipes, baby foods, snacks and soaps.
When the families come get their food, I get a warm feeling inside because I am helping my community by volunteering my time. Most of the families coming to the Brooktondale pantry are single mothers with children. We always let every person know that they are not alone, we are here to help them.