Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Radio Presentation

Here it is!  The final audio presentation that I have created out of interviews with three staff members and six clients of the Hunger Coalition.  Enjoy!

Monday, April 11, 2011

New York City Coalition Against Hunger/Political Rally

            This morning, I headed down to the infamous Wall Street area to meet with Joel Berg, the passionately outspoken executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.  Joel is a very prominent figure in the world of food insecurity advocacy.  We didn't have much time to talk, but his essential message is this:  food banks shouldn't exist because the government should be running effective programs that keep its citizens out of food insecurity and support them thoroughly when they are hungry.  He cites the 1970's as a time when minimum wage jobs could provide families with a living, the economy was doing well, and the government was running assistance programs.  Essentially, the war on poverty had been won and non-government food organizations virtually did not exist.  Around 1980, during the Reagan era, these programs were drastically cut and many mentally unstable citizens were turned out of mental institutions.  As a result, food banks and soup kitchens appeared all over America to try to stem a wave of hunger and homelessness that simply had not existed before.  Joel believes that most Americans today know that we have a hunger problem (I am not so sure about that) but few know that there is a solution.  However, that solution would require a massive government commitment to raise minimum wage, increase education, increase entitlement programs, renew aid to Seniors and the mentally unstable, and simplify federal nutrition applications.  With the current political climate, this is not going to happen very soon. 
        Joel also spoke quite a bit about the growing disparity between the rich and the poor in America.  Did you know that the 57 richest people in New York City alone have a combined wealth that equals the combined wealth of thirteen million minimum-wage workers?  Furthermore, those 57 very rich New Yorkers could pay the deficits of all fifty states combined.  These numbers are staggering.  Meanwhile, fifty million Americans live in food-insecurity and the working poor are the fastest growing subset of the poor. 
        Next, I went with Joel and another staff member to the New York City Hall for a press conference/political rally held by the congress men and women of New York.  The focus of this rally was both the budget passed on Friday and the mysterious entitlements deals worked out between Obama and the Republicans that will be announced Wednesday.  I am wary of events like these, because the perspective is so incredibly skewed.  As with most rallies, this became one where each speakers had the same basic message with which everyone else agreed.  They decried that "Republicans are trying to repeal the 20th century" through cutting entitlement programs.  It is truly a sad thing that the means of balancing the budget is focused on cutting programs that give food, assistance, health care, and job placement to the country's poorest when tax cuts to the country's wealthiest remain untouched.  I am learning more fully each day that no one in the social services non-profit sector is a Republican.  On a side note, I felt pretty professional attending a press conference with media coverage and reporters on the steps where Abraham Lincoln's body was laid after he was killed, where Albert Einstein was hosted, and where numerous other historical events have unfolded.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Cathedral Community Cares/St. John's Bread and Life

        This morning I walked over to the Columbia area to grab an apple strudel at the truly epic Hungarian Pastry Shop and visit Cathedral Community Cares.  With time to kill, I found myself drawn to the massive Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine.  I am far from religious, but I impulsively entered the doors of the cathedral.  As I walked inside, my jaw dropped.  I was surrounded by shining stained glass panels, an assortment of archaic alters, and, of course, vast marble ceilings.  It turns out that my randomly chosen cultural site was the largest cathedral in the Western hemisphere.  What was more surprising, was the small and poorly-funded soup kitchen tucked into the basement recesses of the cathedral.  I have taken enough English classes to know symbolism when I see it; I have never seen a more poignant contrast between the opulence of the wealthy and the deprivation of the poor who, quite literally, get shoved in the basement.  Cathedral Community Cares is a small non-profit that is neither religious nor funded by the cathedral, but is located within the cathedral and answers to the cathedral board of directors.  CCC currently operates a lunch and breakfast program each Sunday, which serves about 250 people, and a clothing program that is quite popular among those in need of work clothing.  The majority of CCC's funding comes from the government and that funding has been cut significantly.  CCC has dwindled from an eight to a three person staff and faces further cuts in the future.  For now, it will remain a small organization doing its bit to decrease NYC hunger in the shadow of one of the most obvious testaments to wealth and extravagance in America.
             Next, I traveled to Brooklyn to visit St. John's Bread and Life.  Before I arrived in New York, I was incredibly nervous about spending my days alone in the city.  However, I have felt remarkably at ease as I navigate the subway system, walk through neighborhoods, and spend time chatting with the often frightening-looking clients of the food banks.  Yet, today my growing cockiness got shaken a bit.   I know very little about New York City.  Therefore, my idea of Brooklyn was brownstones and cafes.  When I stepped off the subway in Bedford Stuyvesant, I found myself in an area that looked nothing like I had imagined.  Here, there was graffiti, trash, and shabby apartment buildings.  Walking through what I later found out is considered the poorest neighborhood in New York as a seventeen-year-old white girl in nice clothing, I felt uneasy for the first time since my project began.  However, I made it to St. John's and past the tight security and found myself in the office of the executive director, Tony Butler.  At most organizations with a twenty-seven member staff, the executive director does not have the time to sit down with a high school student.  Yet, Tony gave me an hour and a half of his time to answer my questions, explain the programs, and tour me around the food bank.
            St. John's inhabits a massive and beautifully renovated building.  On the first floor, they have a soup kitchen that serves breakfast and lunch five days each week and roughly 250,000 meals each year.  St. John's also has a mobile soup kitchen, which serves meals at five different locations throughout the city.  The organization is best known for its revolutionary pantry program.  Clients enter the building and head to a row of touchscreen computers to order the food they want that day.  Between nine and eleven minutes later, a volunteer calls out their name with their personalized food bag.  Not only does the system allow clients to choose what they want that day, it lets them choose how many points they wish to use that day.  Clients can come as many times as they like each month, but they cannot spend more than their allotment of monthly points.  Therefore, clients are given more freedom to determine when they would like to save or spend their points.  This is the only digital choice pantry program in the world.  When Tony and his staff first proposed the idea, many people thought the program would fail because they thought that the poor were too stupid to use technology.  Instead, the program has thrived and continues to empower clients by giving them a place that respects them.  Since this program was impemented, St. John's has seen an 85% increase in the number of clients, but only a 73% increase in the amount of food being given away.  This means that clients know what the would like to eat and only take what they will eat, cutting out the excess food that is often a side effect of food pantries.  The pantry and soup kitchen combined served 500,000 meals last year.  20% of their clientele is homeless, and 87% use St. John's for 180 days or less.
         Upstairs, St. John's runs its social service component.  In addition to a sizable social service staff that helps clients to apply for food stamps, etc., St. John's partners with a host of organizations that bring their services on site.  At any given time in the week, St. John's will have an immigration law clinic, tax program, document recovery program, medical team (in their spiffy full-service medical room) and religious leader.  These social service programs were utilized by 23,000 people last year.  Additionally, the organization has a library, seven computers, and a small prayer room that are all available to clients five days each week.   Taken together, these resources create an incredible hub of emergency assistance, long-term service, and personal development.
         St. John's religious affiliation is somewhat confusing.  It is officially affiliated with St. John's Catholic Church.  However, it receives very little funding from them and does not foist a religious message on its clients.  There are no religious posters on the walls or bible quotes on doorways.  As Tony explained, the purpose of maintaining the religious message is to constantly reinforce the pure, moral message at the center of St. John's and all other similar non-profits: all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and have the same access to basic services.  Whether you embody it in Christianity, Buddhism, atheism, or Hinduism, this is a beautiful message.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Yorkville Common Pantry/West Side Campaign Against Hunger

         This morning I returned to YCP to speak with two women on the development team who are in charge of raising the roughly $3.6 million dollars each year that keeps YCP alive.  Raising money on that large of a scale, with so many programs, jobs, and hungry people depending on your efforts, is incredibly daunting.  When I envisioned visiting these food banks, I never imagined meeting with the fund-raising staff.  However, I have increasingly come to realize how incredibly important the small staffs that run events, reach out to donors, build corporate partnerships, and harness publicity really are.  No organization would exist without them.  YCP is unique in the New York area because it receives very little government funding.  Instead, 73% of funding comes from private sources.  YCP's location on 5th Avenue and the very name, Yorkville (one of the richest zipcodes in the country) throw into relief a curious contrast that is found in all hunger, homelessness, and other emergency assistance organizations: these organizations are often the only bridge between the very rich and the very poor.  On any given day, staff, like the good folks at YCP, must cater to New York socialites with seven homes and impoverished families with none.  For me, this is a really interesting aspect that I have never before considered, even though, in working with the Hunger Coalition, I frequently and unthinkingly switch between donor services and clients services. 
        Another thing I found interesting about YCP is its unintended permanence.  When YCP was founded thirty years ago, the nineteen churches and synagogues that created it never intended for the organization to exist longer than five or ten years.  They thought that hunger in NYC would be solved by then.  Thirty years later, hunger is just as big, if not larger, of an issue in NYC and across the nation.  It is really hard to comprehend that America, the most powerful nation on Earth, has a problem obtaining the most basic of human necessities for all of its inhabitants.  And the problem is not going to go away any time soon.  On that note, here is an interesting article I found via the New York Times today:
         Next, I headed downstairs to observe YCP's food pantry.  As I mentioned in my previous post, YCP is in the process of switching over from a food packet system to a food ordering system.  I think this will be a good switch.  I couldn't help but watch the food packet system and cringe at the number of plastic bags going to waste.  Each client gets a dry goods packet in a plastic bag and a produce/meat packet in a plastic bag.  I also worry that, because clients cannot choose what they receive, some of the food gets thrown away unused.  Other than these two things, the food pantry was remarkably ordered and well-run.  I really like YCP's system of allotting time slots for different family sizes.  For example, all one to two person families come to the pantry from 10:00-11:30 and then the three to five person families come for the next slot, and so on.  YCP also has a great organization system for crowd management.  All clients start in the basement, where their membership cards are scanned.  When the card is scanned, their name shows up on a monitor in the pantry.  They wait downstairs until the pantry is ready for them, and then head up the elevator to receive their packages.  This keeps the relatively small pantry space organized and chaos-free. 
          Around 11:00, I ventured into the subways and promptly got thoroughly lost.  After forty-five minutes of back-tracking, I arrived at West Side Campaign Against Hunger.  I appeared a few minutes into WSCAH's lunch hour and was immediately greeted by the executive director, Doreen.  Each day, the twenty clients who are working in WSCAH's 12-week restaurant program serve lunch for staff, volunteers, and guests.  Today, they were celebrating three birthdays within the community, so everyone ate cake and sang.  A sizable portion of WSCAH's volunteer base is also their client base.  As Doreen explained, WSCAH is a customer cooperative, which means that they foster an atmosphere where every client feels personally involved in the well-being of the organization.  This atmosphere is most palpable at lunch time, when clients, staff, and others mingle and get to know each other.  As a result, I have never seen such a friendly and tension-free food bank.  Additionally, the meals that are prepared are predominantly made out of the pantry and are intended to demonstrate the healthy meals that can be made from WSCAH's resources. 
          The lunch break is not Doreen's only innovation; she also invented the supermarket-style system that has been copied by hunger organizations across the country.  In fact, I already described this system in my post about the University Food Bank because Joe at University Food was directly inspired by Doreen's model.  WSCAH serves about 212 households each day and roughly 27,000 people each year.  Essentially, clients (or customers) enter the pantry, grab a shopping cart, and head through the shelves to choose what types and quantities of food they would like to eat.  The quantity they are allotted is not large: it is enough food for about three days but clients are only allowed to come once per month.  However, the quality of the food is very high and Doreen focuses intently on ensuring that everything on the shelves is healthy.  I met a sweet older volunteer who works nearly every day at the pantry.  She is dedicated to making the bank as inviting as possible and has put herself in charge of educating all volunteers on the importance of keeping all of the products on the shelves tidy, easy to access, and facing forward.
          Like YCP, WSCAH has a six-person social services team that helps clients gain access to entitlements like food stamps and social security.  This team also partners with a number of other organizations that come to the pantry to assist clients with services like legal advice, HIV testing, financial help, and health enrollment.  Doreen estimates that 90% of clients would rather come to WSCAH to receive these services than another agency.  Thus, WSCAH has evolved into a sort of hub for organizations with services that typically benefit the hungry. 
          Doreen, like myself, shares a love for pie charts and data.  WSCAH has done extensive surveying of their clientele and she was able to present me with some impressive statistics.  A few that surprised and sobered me: 59% of WSCAH's clients have a weekly income of $0-200, 30% do not have adequate housing, 37% came once, while 27% came back after a six-month absence, and 11%, or 1,090, people came 10-12 times last year, or nearly ever change the could.  Doreen has also found that government programs are largely ineffective in helping support the hungry and homeless.  The two programs that are most beneficial are food stamps and an earned income tax credit.  Unfortunately, some members of Congress are trying to cut these programs and essentially end all efficient government programs.  For WSCAH, cuts in government funding could have serious consequences.  WSCAH is about 25% government funded, with a total government revenue of $600,000 dollars each year out of their overall budget of $2.4 million dollars.  It is possible WSCAH will lose a large chunk of government money, which may mean programs will need to be cut and the amazing system Doreen and other staff members have put in place will be fractured. 
            Final thought of the night: (it is 1:15 my time)  today I had quite a view-changing experience out of the food bank.  This evening, around 5:30, I was returning to my apartment after a long day of touring food banks and exploring New York.  I was tired, hungry, and ready to get home.  On the way, I stopped at a neighborhood grocery store to buy a few items.  The store was somewhat busy as I got in-line behind a very old, stooped woman.  She had yellowed fingernails, stained clothing, the distinct smell of homelessness, and spoke very little English.  I barely noticed her.  After a lengthy wait time, I began to grow impatient and I started to tap my foot and cast annoyed glances in her direction.  The line behind me grew.  She continued deliberating between items and trying to communicate with the cashier.  And that's when I noticed the payment type on the register: food stamps.  My heart sank.  I watched as she put a few items back and then sadly pulled out a few crumpled dollar bills to cover the extra excess cost of her minimal groceries.  And then she was gone, hobbling off into the streets of New York.  In the instant I saw the words "food stamps" appear on the register, my perspective of this woman changed; I transformed from an impatient customer to someone who compassionately understood the woman's situation.  However, I should never have had to transform in the first place.  All the clues--from the smell to the her stained dress--should have instantly triggered my compassion and understanding.  Yet, those emotions didn't even register.  Instead, I was borderline rude.  Thus, I have added a new goal to this project: I am going to consciously work to integrate the caring and empathetic aspect of myself that emerges when I work with clients in food banks, learn about programs that serve them, and advocate for their causes, with my seventeen-year-old aspect that just wants to buy bread and get home.  I want to connect my philosophies with my actions and learn to notice the small signs of distress and instability far outside the walls of hunger centers.  But, for now, all I can do is sleep and begin again in the morning.  Tomorrow I am working with Cathedral Community Food Bank and St. John's Bread and Life.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Yorkville Common Pantry

         I am sitting in my 13th floor apartment overlooking the Hudson River and staring, daunted, at my seven pages of notes about Yorkville Common Pantry.  YCP is an incredible and overwhelming organization.  Today, I spent all day talking with the staff at YCP and volunteering and touring the organization facilities.  YCP has four main subsections: most importantly, the food pantry, which serves 1400-1600 families each week, secondly, the soup kitchen, which is open for breakfast and dinner most days and served 75,800 meals last year, thirdly, is 365 YCP, an emergency food and referral program and a benefits acquisition service for clients who need help applying for food stamps, Social Security, etc., and lastly, is Project Dignity, which provides basic services like laundry, haircuts, and showers and helps to bring clients out of homelessness.  Taken together, these subsections represent an incredible community organization that focuses, not only on providing food, but on bringing clients out of food instability. 
          Upon arriving at YCP, I was sent down to the food pantry to help package family food bags.  Instead of a vendor-style line, in which clients walk around a U-shaped table and choose what they want from bins, YCP has pre-packaged, non-perishable food bags that are distribute to families based on family size.  I spent the hour bagging canned peaches and oatmeal and talking to two Canadian Mennonite farm boys from Canada who were in New York on a six-month mission.  Unlike some of the open-door programs I visited in New York, YCP's pantry requires membership.  To be a member, families need to provide proof of residence, proof of income, and proof of family size.  YCP has this luxury because they have both an emergency meal program and a soup kitchen that can serve families with immediate needs.  Clients can come once every 14 days and the food bags are designed to last roughly four days.  The recipients of these bags are often clients who have jobs but cannot make enough money to support themselves self-sufficiently.  After all, the poverty line in New York City is 250% the national poverty line.  A second problem in New York is the existence of food deserts--areas and neighborhoods where families cannot buy fresh food.  For many, they couldn't buy fresh food in their area even if they could pay in full.  Last year, there were roughly 6,000 active households utilizing the food pantry as a resource.  Volunteers, like the Canadian boys, are, of course, incredibly integral.  YCP estimates that their volunteers save them at least $300,000 dollars each year.  The food pantry requires roughly 15-20 volunteers each week and volunteers put in a total of 23,000 labor hours last year.  The pantry is actually in the process of changing their distribution model from the food bags to an ordering system in which clients can pre-order their bags according to their preferences online or on tablets available in the office and pick up their specialized food packages.  I have never heard of this method and I am curious to see how that will work. 
          YCP's other food component, the soup kitchen, is also quite large.  The hot breakfast is open five days a week and serves roughly 250 people each day and the dinner is open three days a week and serves roughly 300 people each day.  Entry into the soup kitchen requires only initials, a date of birth, and gender.  Those who use the soup kitchen are often historically homeless and often suffer from mental illness and substance abuse.  Roughly 70% of YCP's food is donated by two major city organizations: New York City Food Bank and City Harvest.  In total, YCP receives about $1.2 million dollars in donated food each year and must buy an additional $590,000 dollars of food each year.  Of the food received, 70% of the produce is grown by New York state farmers. 
          Many clients come for the soup kitchen's hot breakfast and stay after to utilize the services provided through Project Dignity.  YCP has the facilities for people to shower, get their mail, do laundry, and receive haircuts.  New York State is somewhat of an anomaly because the laws require the state to provide housing for everyone.  Everyone, that is, who goes through the draconian and complicated process of applying for housing.  A major part of Project Dignity consists of one-on-one time with staff case managers who help clients to apply and qualify for housing, health care, and other benefits.  The housing process can take anywhere from a few weeks to eight months. 
         Finally, YCP runs the 365 YCP program, which operates an office all day, every day.  People can come to this office when they have nowhere else to turn and immediately receive an emergency food package.  This service can be used up to once a month.  Last year, 365 YCP received 6,500 visits and helped to provide services for almost 13,000 people.  Additionally, 365 YCP works with clients to apply for benefits like Social Security and food stamps and refer them to other organizations that can help them. 
         YCP estimates that their investment in the community last year, through these programs, totaled roughly $1.1 million dollars.  This year, they hope to increase this number to two million dollars.  YCP is focused on balancing their food programs with their newly emerging services programs to alleviate both immediate and long-term hunger in NYC.
       Tomorrow, I return to YCP to observe the food pantry in action and speak with the director of development.  After lunch, I am heading to Westside Campaign Against Hunger.  More tomorrow on YCP's funding sources and pictures of the food bank!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Jewish Family Services/University Food Bank

        Yesterday, a beautiful rainy day in Seattle, I toured two very different food banks.  First, I walked to Jewish Family Services, a very small, very beautiful food bank on Capitol Hill.  The first thing one notices about the JFS food bank is its beauty.  This is a tidy, newly built and well run little food bank.  I worked the morning shift at JFS from 9:45 to 12:00.  During this time, JFS served roughly 55 clients.  Unlike at Saint Mary's and Cherry Street, JFS had no long line or disorderly operations.  Instead, clients arrived every few minutes when their buses dropped them off across the street, waited in the entryway until they were called into the bank, and picked up their cans, lovely produce, and bread while chatting and laughing with the volunteers.  I was surprised to find that clients could point or ask about various things on the warehouse shelves, such as razors, coffee, baby food, and cookies, and volunteers would happily accommodate their requests.  At most food banks, such requests would be met with a, "we're sorry, we can't give you that item at this time."  Additionally, JFS had the most beautiful produce I have ever seen at a food bank.  They had fresh blueberries, boxes of apples and oranges, and big heads of lettuce.  At most food banks, a client would be limited to one or two apples, oranges, and potatoes.  At JFS, they receives eight of each.  In conclusion, JFS is an incredibly well run and well stocked food bank, but it has the ability to carry such nice produce and give away items like razors and cookies because it is so small and clients come so infrequently.  JFS can't compare to the large scales of Cherry Street and Saint Mary's, but it has its place in the city's framework of food banks.
           Next, I headed to the University of Washington campus to take a look at the innovative University Food Bank.  Instead of a traditional grocery line, where clients walk around a horseshoe-shaped configuration and choose various items from bins, UFood has a marketplace structure.  On their first visit, clients are asked to bring proof of the number of people in their family.  Depending on the size of their family, they are allotted a certain number of points.  Then, customers (they call them customers, not clients) are free to roam the aisles of the food bank and spend their points on the items they want.  I thought this was a really interesting style and it certainly seemed to be working when I observed the food bank.  Not only does it increase the amount of food each family receives, it allows the food bank to stay open for five hours each day, Monday through Friday.  In total, UFood serves around 6,500 families each week.  Each family is only allowed to come once per week.  UFood does more data tracking than the previous food banks that I visited, and they had some interesting numbers.  They found that, not only did the recession cause a major spike in the number of people, it caused the average length of time that a person or family utilizes the food bank to increase from three to four months to ten to twelve months. Between 1/4 and 1/3 of UFood's customers attend one or more of the other twenty-six food banks in Seattle.  Between seventy and eighty percent of customers come via the bus, on a bike, or on foot.  Finally, fifteen percent of their clients are homeless. 
           UFood requires between fifteen and twenty volunteers each day and they logged 20,000 volunteer hours last year.  Of the roughly eighty volunteers each week, roughly one quarter are customers who want to give back.  Eighty percent of UFood's food is donated by grocery stores, Northwest Harvest, Food Lifeline, and community drives.  The bank then spends roughly $130,000 per year purchasing food and has a total operating expense of $475,000 per year, double what it was ten years ago.  The money to fund these expenses come from individuals, churches, the government, and foundations.
 The JFS food line.
 The JFS shelves
 UFood's market-style food bank.
 An example of UFood's point system.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Northwest Harvest/Saint Mary's/Jewish Family Services

         I am absolutely exhausted from a triple dose of Seattle food banks.  Early this morning, I returned to Cherry Street food bank to observe mother/baby day and talk to the administrative staff.  On Thursdays each week, Cherry Street changes its food line to baby formula, food, and toiletries and opens its doors only to women with children five and under.  It is their slowest day, with only about 200 women throughout the day.  Next, I met with Kim Nelson, the Community Affairs Director for Northwest Harvest.  Once again, Northwest Harvest blew my mind with the astounding scale of their operations. Kim and her team are responsible for raising ten million dollars each year to purchase the more than 24 million pounds of food that is distributed to 330 food banks and, of course, to pay the salaries of the hard working staff.  Today alone, she had a fund-raising goal of $40,000.  This support is largely derived from individual donors paying small checks.  Northwest Harvest has a 30,000-person mailing list and a 10,000-person donor base.  Kim was full of incredible insight into the world of non-profit fund-raising.  She has two rules by which she lives: she asks for four dollars for every one dollar she actually needs and she requires her staff to interact with a donor seven times between a donation and the next time they ask for money.  Additionally, money and resources for Northwest Harvest are raised through thousands of food drives a year (600 drives in December alone!) and 17 signature events each year, all of which are facilitated by companies or individuals who want to give back. 
           Next, I talked with Elise DeGooyer, who is the program manager for Northwest Harvest.  She and her staff are in constant communication with the 330 food banks that receive food from Northwest Harvest.  These food banks range in dependency from 5% to 100%.  Northwest Harvest distributes food for free to any food bank in the State.  Their only requirement is that no client of a food bank can be denied food from Northwest Harvest, even if the food bank's clientele policy does not allow them to give that client the full food bank service.  Elise told me that food banks across the state have seen a roughly 50% increase in demand in the past three years.  In the past year or so, that demand has leveled off, but it has not dropped.  This data matches up with what we have experienced at the Hunger Coalition. 
            After lunch, I took a bus (I am on my way to mastering the Seattle bus system) to Saint Mary's.  Saint Mary's runs a moderately large food bank out of a church basement.  It is not religiously affiliated and is very similar to Cherry Street.  Like Cherry Street, it has no client screening system.  Clients are only asked to show identification and are entered into the system so that they cannot come more than once a week.  Saint Mary's receives food from Northwest Harvest, Food Lifeline, and a few major grocery stores in the area.  Saint Mary's serves around 400 clients each day and requires between fifteen and thirty volunteers per day to work in the warehouse and food line.  I found the food selection here to be quite strange: they had a lot of variety and types of food, however, a large proportion of it was unhealthy.  There was a box each of ring pops, otter pops, cake mix, cheesecake mix, cakes, and pie filling.  Many clients who came through the line refused substantial food like tuna and potatoes but loaded up on sponge cake and pie filling.  Most of these sweet items come from the grocery stores, but I am of the opinion that it is better to throw Oreo cakes and ring pops away rather than give the empty, unhealthy calories out to clients.   Saint Mary's also operates one of the largest home delivery services in Seattle.  Multiple times each week, vans go out into the poorest neighborhoods to deliver food boxes to clients who are too ill or disabled to come to the food bank.  They also create no-cook boxes specifically for homeless clients, about 20 of which are handed out each day. 
           Finally, I headed to Jewish Family Services for a quick orientation to their food bank.  More on that later...I will be volunteering with them tomorrow morning.  It is time to sleep and play with my brand new iPhone!