Learning by Working with Hungry Neighbors
Volunteers at Second Harvest Heartland are exposed to hunger, in some way, with every volunteer experience, no matter if it’s in the warehouse, completing administrative work or interning with us. But for many, direct interaction with hungry neighbors can shift our understanding of the gravity of hunger.
For Sarah, her direct experience with neighbors-in-need was at a Second Harvest Heartland produce distribution. One of the first things she noticed was that people receiving food assistance are grateful. “They are so appreciative. It’s very humbling and frankly a little embarrassing,” Sarah said.
Sarah recalled a mother of three she served, where the mother was very grateful for a bag of produce to feed her children. “She should not have to be grateful for food to live,” Sarah said.
A longtime volunteer with Second Harvest Heartland, Sarah has picked up many things about the face of hunger. “I think it’s hard for people who haven’t had direct exposure to imagine [hunger],” she said. “I think not only is it hard to imagine it, but it’s also easy to ignore it. Because it’s painful. Who wants to look at that?”
Most of Sarah’s volunteer work at Second Harvest Heartland in the last three years has been in the warehouse packing food and eventually volunteering as a speaker ambassador, educating others about the issue of hunger right in our community.
When she had the opportunity to work directly with the people we serve, Sarah took it.
“The clients were regular people,” Sarah said. “Sometimes we want to think people who need support services that there’s something about THEM. There wasn’t anything about these people. They are working people. Again, it’s very humbling. If someone was working as hard as they’re working and to take care of a couple of kids, and then have to worry about food and shelter—it makes me feel like I’ve had a really easy life.”
Sarah sees her volunteer shifts to be ongoing, even when she’s outside of our walls. She takes seriously the ambassadorial part of her role—she jumps on chances to speak about hunger with knowledge. “People don’t have to eat less so someone can eat more. There’s enough food. I think that’s a really powerful idea for people to know.”
“Because we can solve this problem,” Sarah concluded, “we just have to decide we’re going to.”
Many thanks to Sarah and her dedicated service to feeding our hungry neighbors. We could not do what we do without her and the other 28,800 Second Harvest Heartland volunteers just like her!
For Volunteer Appreciation Month, we are featuring a different volunteer every week in April. Although we will only share four stories this month, every single one of the volunteers who together gave 132,000 hours last year have made our work possible. You can learn more about volunteer impact here.