July 6th, 2011

Houston Helps: Houston Food Bank and The Loop Group

I’m a little perplexed why doing good always has to be early in the morning or outside in the full heat of the day, but I guess that sweat equity earns karma points. Most Saturday mornings, come 6:30, you can find me blissfully snoring away in my bed, a little drool running down my cheek. Ok, a lot of drool. Last Saturday, I found myself groggily stumbling through my morning ritual before heading over to the Houston Food Bank to do my good deed for the week, eh month… ok, year.

I’ve never been to the food bank before—all I had to go on was what Richard hit me over the head with several times. “You must wear closed-toe shoes and long pants.” We didn’t want any cans of potted meat smashing my little piggies. Pulling into the parking lot, I quickly realized that I shouldn’t have—not a space to be had. Looks like I’ll be driving my closed-toe shoes to park along the feeder road.


The blast of cold AC to the face when entering the Food Bank immediately rearranged my disposition for summer volunteer work. I wasn’t prepared for the crowd of people or the massive scope of the food bank. Floundering around the lobby, I looked for the rest of the group. Apparently, when volunteering at the food bank, the idea is to wear matching shirts. I didn’t get that memo. Neither did Richard or Sarah. Richard’s wife was the only one who had the wherewithal to don an I “Astronaut” Houston shirt. We’re off to a good start.

“Who are you? Have you filled out your waivers?”
“Yes, ma’m, we’re with the Loop Scoop.”
“The what? The Loop Group? Oh, oh, oh, oh… Loop Scoop.”

Different team leaders come in from the food storage and organizing section of the warehouse to gather their crews—each cluster with a completely different task. For instance, the Houston Texans’ fans were to sort good food and drink from bad food and drink, not unlike the scales that sort Willy Wonka’s Golden Chocolate Eggs. We were given the duties of accepting and recording deliveries. Thirty minutes went by, not a single delivery. Shame on us, Houstonians.


I guess we looked sad, it didn’t take long for the food bank staff to reassign us to food sorting. After pulling on our latex gloves, we got to work disinfecting each item that came to us from the warehouse, checking it for holes, contamination or expiration, repackaging it and sending it down the room-wide conveyor belt. I was confused by some of the items people donated, tons (literally) of Capri Suns, one box of raisins still in the plastic package of six, and enough Pop Ice for every kid at your local community pool.

With a break halfway through the shift for water and team pictures, we left our station for the break room. Venniece Robbins, Director of Volunteer Services, came around, taking the time to thank each volunteer for their time. She informed us that a new warehouse would be opening just off I-10 East, at the end of July and that they were in need of volunteers to help set up and transition the old to the new. At that point, our break ended.


The second half of our shift went much like the first. Between uncovering more Capri Suns and experimenting with different accents in which to yell, “BOX!” when fresh items to sort were needed, it was a good way to spend the remainder of our experience. After finishing the last batch of items, we left through the lobby where they told us how much food we had sorted and packed. It was an impressive amount for four hours of work. On that note, we exited the A/C and went our separate ways into the heat of summer.


New Location: 535 Portwall Street | I-10 East | Houston, Texas 77029
Warehouse: The Herzstein Center |
3811 Eastex Fwy. | Houston, Texas 77026
The Keegan Center | 2445 North Fwy. | Houston, Texas 77009
Phone: (713)223-3700Email: ajordan@houstonfoodbank.org


— Marc


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