I went to help at the Bishop's Storehouse today. Our church has it's own welfare system, which includes a storehouse where people can get food. I have been to help there before, but it never ceases to amaze me when I see this program in action.
We started out the day by "pulling" meat orders. We each were given an order form that had been filled out by a Relief Society president. (I was a Relief Society president before, and have filled out many of those forms.) The items listed on the form represent a two week supply of food for the family that is requesting help. The worker overseeing us pulled a big flat of frozen meats out of the freezer, and we all "went shopping" to find what was needed for the orders we held. Those orders of meat were boxed up to be later added to the fresh foods that were listed on the form.
Next they had us bag potatoes. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? The worker in charge got out a forklift and brought a huge flat of boxes of potatoes for us. Our job was to measure out 5 lbs. worth and bag them in individual bags. As we worked, and talked together, we speculated that the boxes of potatoes, which were marked IDAHO, had come from Church farms in Idaho because they weren't graded. By that I mean that the potatoes were all different shapes and sizes. It was so cool to think about a church farm in Idaho some where growing those potatoes to be used for the storehouse. A friend of mine grew up on a church farm, and often talks about all of the great fruits and vegetables available for them.
Wait, did I say the task was simple? Although it may seem that measuring out 5 lb bags of potatoes seems easy, after you do it about 50 times, you begin to wear out a little. I don't know how many bags were represented by that huge flat of potatoes, but I do know that we all were feeling it after an hour of work. I think the flat was about 5x5 boxes wide, and maybe 5 tall. Each box was probably a 50 pound box. THAT'S alot of potatoes!
One thing they do, that I have always thought was great, is to feed lunch to the workers. They use the food that is there, so that people can see that it is good food. Also, many people who come to work in the storehouse are the same people who are receiving help, so it helps them to be fed. Usually those people come to help to try to give back for the help they are receiving. I didn't stay for lunch because we finished our work ahead of schedule, but I liked the thought of the other workers all sitting down to lunch together later.
I will be going back to the storehouse in August, but this time for a different purpose. I will be going to the Home Storage Center which is in an adjacent room. I have big 50 lb bags of rice, beans, and sugar that I need to put up in cans for home storage. Buying in bulk not only gives you a store of food in case of emergency, but it is cheaper in the long run. In the past I have used plastic storage buckets with lids to store my bulk foods, but now that this new storehouse has been built, I have a great facility to can my food in aluminum cans that are easier to store and easier to open for use.
Another thing I really like about the chance to work in the storehouse is that (as I mentioned above)it gives those who are receiving help a chance to some how give back for what they are receiving. We are taught in our church that giving help without expecting anything in return isn't good for the person who is being helped. When people are able to give back, it helps them maintain their feelings of self worth. Although I haven't received help from the church, I still felt happy to be able to help out and contribute for those who do need help.