Every year, I volunteer with my Boy Scouts troop for their annual food drive, Scouting for Food, for two weekends in November.
The first weekend, my brothers and I go around our neighborhood and the surrounding area, handing out plastic bags for people to put their donations in. We pick up those donations the following weekend, which is when the real work starts.
The parking lot of the church where our troop meets becomes a controlled chaos of sorting all the donations from 8 a.m. past noon. The donations arrive by the trunk load, are checked for expiration, then sorted by their contents into piles. We repackage the final items in plastic bags and drive them to our local food bank to be distributed to community members.
I always love seeing how this event brings people together. My friends, classmates and neighbors from the community came out to make sure the food drive was a success.
Seeing everyone coming together and working to make an impact is a big reason that I volunteer with the food drive every year, but it isn’t the only reason. I also come back because it reminds me of my privilege.
Since I was a child, my parents worked to instill a healthy sense of humility in me to make sure I realized the advantages I had. They made sure I understood that not everyone has the privileges we enjoyed, like three warm meals per day and a roof over our heads at night.
They encouraged me to donate my clothes when I outgrew them, reminding me, “Someone could need these.”
When I complained about not liking the food we’d have for dinner, I was told, “Not everyone has the luxury of complaining about this.”
These words meant something to me, but I wasn’t able to fully grasp what they were trying to teach me. However, when I saw the boxes full of canned vegetables and the bags filled with boxes of pasta and cereal at the food drive, I realized people needed these donations more than I understood.
I was 12 years old when my troop brought the items to the food bank for the first time. The shelves were always bare and empty, but I felt pride and appreciation when I saw those shelves overflowing with donations after we finished.
Seeing all the donations spread throughout the food bank makes me realize that I’m not solving hunger in my community, but I’m giving food to the people that need it and making a difference. I’m connecting with my community to help people in our area that need it and becoming closer with my troop and my family through our actions.
I commit to helping with the food drive every year because of its special impact on my life. It has helped me to be more aware of my own privileges and has led me to live my life differently. I’m more aware of the ways I’m more fortunate than others, and I work hard to give back when I can.
Volunteering at and donating to local food shelters is something everyone should do if they can. It’s especially impactful during the holiday season when so much focus is on feasting which leads to lots of wastefulness.
Growing up, the food drive was just another activity I participated in. Now I realize it’s so much more than that, it’s an opportunity for me to give back to my community.