IFT Cares Volunteers Pitch in at Food Depository
by Mary Ellen Kuhn
For the third consecutive year, a group of IFT members began their Annual Meeting & Food Expo experience showing lots of heart—and some muscle, too—as volunteers for the IFT Cares philanthropic initiative.
This year, the program, which IFT organizes annually in cooperation with the national anti-hunger organization Feeding America, has three groups of volunteers working several-hour shifts at the Greater Chicago Food Depository, an affiliate of Feeding America. On Saturday, July 17, two groups traveled to the food depository, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. A third group will help out on Wednesday morning.
On Saturday morning, the volunteers worked on an assembly line packing emergency food boxes designed to feed a family of five for three days. All together, the group packed 720 cases of food, which translates to 18 pallets or 23,040 pounds! In the afternoon session, IFT Cares volunteers repackaged 4,000 pounds of bread, buns, and bagels.
“It’s a great way to spend a Saturday morning,” said IFT Board of Directors Member Bruce Stillings, a first-time IFT Cares participant.
IFT Student Association (IFTSA) members were well represented in the group of Saturday morning volunteers, something that Professional Member Faye Dong, Head of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a three-time IFT Cares volunteer, was happy to see.
“I am very pleased that there is so much student support,” said Dong. “If it encourages students to go back home and volunteer with their student clubs, that would be great.”
That’s exactly what Arin Stieringer-Roos, incoming President of the student Food Science Society at California Polytechnic State University, Pomona, hopes to see happen. The club has recently increased its membership, and the students are interested in adding some philanthropic activities to their agenda, said Stieringer-Roos.
This year, the fee for students to participate was just $10—substanially lower than in the past, and that was a plus in promoting student involvement, said Matt Cael, Chair of the IFTSA Chapter Leaders Workshop and a graduate student at Louisiana State University. All of the student leaders who participated in the workshop were encouraged to participate in a community service activity—either through IFT Cares or at the fundraising Fun Run sponsored by IFTSA and Feeding Tomorrow, Cael said.
Several students on hand on Saturday morning said they viewed participation in IFT Cares not only as an opportunity to help out in the host city, but as a way of showing support for IFT.
Louisiana State University student Adriana Soto said the volunteer experience was meaningful to her because she was a recipient of a Feeding Tomorrow scholarship this year. “So it’s a way to give back,” she said.
Esther Bushway, wife of University of Maine Food Science Professor Alfred Bushway, first volunteered with IFT Cares when the philanthropic program was launched in 2008 in New Orleans and followed that up by participating last year in Anaheim. This year, she was pleased that her husband’s schedule allowed him to join her. “I think it’s very worthwhile, especially in this economy,” Alfred Bushway observed.
The Greater Chicago Food Depository distributes 58 million pounds of food annually to Chicago area pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters. Nearly 678,000 hungry people were served over the course of a year.
This year all three IFT Cares volunteer time slots have sold out, reports IFT Cares staff organizer Kelley Ahuja.