One of the reasons I was excited about an internship with Ogallala Commons was their focus on community and developing young leaders to be intentional about their work and service. I was a little nervous coming to Garden City because I didn’t really have any personal connections other than some friends of my parents, but the responsibility to get involved now fell on my shoulders. Another OC intern, Joe Mendoza, forwarded an opportunity to help an organization, Live Well Finney County, deliver cases of bottled water (supplied by Blue Cross Blue Shield of KS) to a local neighborhood. This area, Towns Riverview South, had been without drinking water for over a month and a half; a pressure problem in the system caused citizens to take precautions and boil the water before using it to avoid bacterial infection. (It began on April 20, and as of July 29, I couldn’t find word on whether the advisory has lifted yet.) We met in the Sam’s Club parking lot and loaded about 8 pallets of water cases into the beds of pickup trucks, and once it was loaded, the group grabbed the map of their area and headed to the neighborhood. I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but I stayed and helped load all the cases into pickup beds and climbed in with the last car and the smallest load. I helped keep track of the houses we already delivered to with the printed map they provided, and we took turns in pairs setting 2 cases of bottled water at each house. All through the neighborhood, there were trucks and volunteers making sure each family had some drinking water. It was a beautiful sight to see so many volunteers, but can you even imagine? A Garden City Telegram article describes some precautions residents should follow:
- “Water should not be ingested or used for brushing teeth. Use bottled water.
- Dispose of ice cubes and do not use from an automatic icemaker.
- Do not use water to cook or prepare food.
- Do now use water to prepare baby formula.
- Supervision of children is necessary while bathing so that water is not ingested.”
My main time spent volunteering was with the Salvation Army. Joe advised me to reach out to United Way to ask about different local opportunities. Deb directed me to Lt. Chelsea Barnes at the Salation Army to help with their produce distributions every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning. I had some experience working in the Pratt County Food Bank and helping with the HandsOn K-State Mobile Food Distributions, and I really love learning about food insecurity and food waste in communities. The most challenging thing for me in this experience, however, was weighing, carrying, and sorting the food into boxes. In three days, we distributed 2,446.90 pounds of food. Maybe you’re thinking, “Wow! That’s amazing – you helped so many families!” and I can’t argue with that statement; we help on average 18 families that equal around 60 individuals fed every day we distribute. The issue, for me, lies within the amount of food we collect from a local grocery store. If we didn’t collect this food to be distributed to these families, they’d be throwing out almost 2,500 pounds of fresh food (meat, produce, bread, desserts) each week! Every single time I help, I’m so torn: I love serving these families that otherwise may not be able to provide for themselves, but all of those products would be thrown out if we didn’t collect it. How many pounds of produce goes to waste in Garden City? In Kansas? In the nation? The number would be daunting. We need to transform and rebalance the way our food is produced and consumed. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says, “Food loss and waste also puts unnecessary pressure on the natural resource base and on the environment, depleting the natural resource base and generating greenhouse gases.” This year, the world will celebrate the first ever International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste on September 29, 2020. More information can be found at their website: http://www.fao.org/international-day-awareness-food-loss-waste/en. This time of service with the volunteering with the Salvation has been very beneficial for the families that collect food at each distribution, and it’s caused me to become more passionate about food insecurity and food waste. At K-State, I serve on the officer team with the Food Recovery Network chapter, and I’m excited to lean in this year and encourage our organization to impact students across the campus to be conscious of the food they waste.