I Volunteered At The Cambridge Food Pantry Today For The First Time

The “Backpack Bags” at the Cambridge Food Pantry filled with breakfast, lunch and snacks for kids.

As many of you know Jon has been working with the  The Cambridge Food Pantry for the past month.  They have an on-going Amazon Wishlist that Jon has been posting on his blog everyday with the food they need.   Thanks to all of you who have already fed so many people using the Wishlist.  If you’d like to donate food you click here for a link to the Amazon Wishlist. 

There’s a long table with jars of peanut butter, jelly, Cheerios, individual cartons of milk, a box of apples and servicing size packages of Oreo cookies.

At one end of the table are plastic shopping bags marked with the number of children in each family  who need food.  The boxes of cereal don’t fit in the bags, so we take the bag of Cheerios out, fold up the box  then put it all in the bag so parents can see what their kids are eating.

There are three woman who have been filling the “Backpack” bags for a year or more.  Today Jon and I are helping them.   Harry stands at the end of the table taking the bags we fill, tying the handles and putting them on another long table.

It’s more confusing than it seems,  a bag for more than three kids gets a big box of cereal.  Four kids  or more get milk cards from Stewarts.  There is one bag of micorwave popcorn for every two kids.

But Joan who has been working at the food pantry for seven years says when in doubt, always give too much rather than too little.

Later in the day someone from the food panty will bring the bags to the school parking lot which is across the street.   A group of  fifth graders will come out with wagons and help distribute the bags to the kids who they were packed for.

I’ve put food in the box at the Village Market and Dollar Store in town for the food pantry regularly.  A jar of peanut butter or a couple of cans of tuna fish.  But the first time I was ever actually in the building was a few weeks ago with Jon.

We got the tour as Jon took pictures and began his work with the Army of Good helping to buy food for the people in and around our town who need it.

I know that a lot of people don’t have enough food.

I hear about it on the news, how people with two and three jobs can’t afford to feed their families.  I see the requests from our own food pantry on the sign outside the building when I drive by.  I see the parking lot full of cars on Saturday morning when then pantry is open.

But this morning, when I opened a plastic bag with the number 2 written on it in black marker and put two packages of Oreo cookies in it,  I though about the two kids who would eating them.  I imagined the kids opening the packs of cookies, gobbling them up and wishing they had one more. Or maybe they savored the cookies, trying to make them last.

That number “2” written on the bag brought me a little closer to the kids who were going to be eating what I had placed in their bag.  And even though I’ll never actually meet those kids, they no longer felt anonymous to me.

I was already there intellectually, but filling up those bags brought me closer emotionally.

I have a little ice in my heart.  I keep it there to protect me. When Jon asked if I wanted to volunteer with him at the food pantry, I was reluctant to commit.  I have enough to do with my work, the farm and the volunteering I already do.

But I didn’t expect to feel what I did today.

Actually doing the physical work of packing up the bags allowed me to imagine the kids who would be eating the food I was putting into them.  I felt a direct connection to them.

And that melted the ice a bit and opened me up to wanting to  give the Food Pantry some more of my time.  Which means I’ll be back at the Food Pantry next Thursday morning, packing up more bags with breakfast, lunch and snacks that will help feed a lot of kids for a couple of days.

2 thoughts on “I Volunteered At The Cambridge Food Pantry Today For The First Time

  1. Thank you Maria. You are a gem to help at the pantry and you express yourself so beautifully in so many ways.

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