On Obesity – Redux…

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I just thought that I’d post a pseudo-update to a post I made last week regarding obesity. In fact, this post will more closely resemble the antithesis of obesity. Last week, on Thursday, I had the good fortune of taking a day off the daily grind to contribute something to society as a whole. I volunteered at the Ottawa Food Bank. In case you are wondering, one of the elements in my union contract (yup, that’s right, I’m unionized, not by choice, but it has certain benefits) is that I am entitled to a paid day of leave for volunteer work. Personally, I think it’s a great idea, and rather than just pretend I took a volunteer day, I really did volunteer. Some people (okay, probably a lot), just take the day off claiming volunteer work, but don’t do anything, since technically, no one is allowed to question what you did! Actually, come to think of it, I think this is a government-endorsed thing, not a union thing, but I digress. My tasks for the day were quite menial, which was actually fine by me. People that are there frequently complained about how slow 8 hours goes by when you’re sorting food. Personally, I found the opposite. I found it quite enjoyable to do something manual for a change. Turns out I’m quite adept at mindless physical labour. Of course, I knew that from my two years doing shift work at Michelin Tires at the Granton plant close to my home in N.S.

Basically, I was stationed at a big table, where I would dump boxes and bags of donations. From here, every item would be sorted, and placed in boxes lining the sides of this area to the right an left of the sort area. Cereal box, Peanut Butter box, KD box, condiments, soup, chilli, beans, misc. dry items, etc. etc. Things were a bit clumsy and slow at first, like should certain cans go in the chilli box, or the beans box, or maybe the soup box? And so on and so forth. Once I started getting the hang of it though, I was a sorting machine. I was easily the most efficient worker there that day! I have a feeling several other people there were doing ‘community service’ time. They spent most of the time doing nothing, or even eating some donations! Yeah, I was a bit annoyed by that, but what could I say? Some of these people were a bit scary. Mixed up punk-type adolescents talking about their most recent fights and run-ins with the po-po.

Every time I thought we were getting to the end of the sorting. ..Beep…beep…beep, another forklift load of food was dropped off to be sorted. After the food is sorted into boxes, each of these boxes gets stacked and put with similar boxes in their warehouse / distribution area. The Food Bank actually distributes food to 112 agencies as well. These agencies basically deliver a ‘shopping list’, that gets filled as best it can by food from the warehouse, then is sent out by volunteer truck drivers. These go to things like church groups, soup kitchens, missions, etc. Each and every day, lots of great volunteers make this happen.

Apparently, this is the slow part of the year for them, before the big food drive. All this is to say that although there is a high rate of obesity in our culture, there’s always another side to every coin. There are a LOT of people that are literally going hungry in our own back yards. Of course, we don’t speak too much of it in polite company, but it’s out there! Here are a few stats that I pulled off the website, which pretty much shocked me:

  • 38,500 people use the food bank in the Ottawa region.
  • 15,000 of those people are children (~40%)
  • 11+ tons is the amount of food distributed DAILY at the food bank!

Depending how you interpret the numbers, that’s roughly 1 person in 20-25 that use the Food Bank. Wow! I had no idea. I’m sure those more enlightened than me will scoff at the fact that I didn’t know this, but I’m willing to bet half or more of the people reading this didn’t know this stuff either. All I know is that I’ve got no reason to ever whine about being hungry. Also next time there’s a food drive, or someone says they’re collecting food, give generously. It’s not like we can’t all spare some canned food. Someone will be very glad that you did.

To close off, a moving quotation from a founder of The Food Bank from 20 years ago: “Hunger erodes human dignity, lessens human energy and impairs potential.” Sad but true. Enjoy you’re supper tonight folks! Think about it when you do.

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