“This is a concept of transferring food from people who have too much to those who don’t have enough.” Rhonda Sanders outlines the basic premise of the Arkansas Food Bank as she tours me through the 76,000 square foot facility that includes a bulk warehouse, a refrigerated warehouse, community rooms, clean preparation rooms, volunteer work spaces, and a small store. Sixty-five employees and over 10,000 annual volunteers accept food from a variety of sources and then store, sort, repackage, and redistribute it. Five AFB trucks deliver 25 million pounds of food to food pantries in 33 counties throughout central and southern Arkansas.
I appreciate the effort, as well as AFB’s focus on using its $8 million budget ($21 million factoring donated food value) effectively. On the Monday after Thanksgiving, coming off the busiest week of their year, the place hums with quiet efficiency. However, I cannot escape the sense that AFB is yet another lesson in how the United States shuffles ‘stuff.’ So much food; most of it recently available for retail purchase, some donated in food drives, about 10% of it USDA commodity; is now transported and handled and transported again in a secondary, ‘post-consumer’ process.
Arkansas Food Bank is a marvelous facility that fills a real need the way our society is structured. But isn’t it too bad that those who require food – all of us – can’t simply get it, wholesome and fresh, at our local market?
How will we live tomorrow?
“We’ll always get volunteers, but they are more selfish. They want to determine what they do, in a nice space, with a snack and with the friends they’ve made. Even when volunteering, it’s always self. People don’t look for a way to add value; they look for what’s in it for them.
“That’s how society evolves. When you get to the point of more comfort than discomfort, then it starts to disintegrate. It’s the cycle of life.”
Upon reflection, Rhonda clarified, “This is not an accurate depiction of my volunteers. I am very concerned about our society’s selfishness and how so many people are focused on their own comforts and their own gains. We live in a day and time where even those who give a lot slip into a mindset of giving only when it meets their needs. I find myself falling into that trap too often and I see it in others in many different situations like church, community and work. However, I cannot paint everyone with this broad brush nor can I judge others past some things that I see. We have so many wonderful volunteers and so many work very hard and have fun helping.
“Your question made me think of the future and my concern that we have to be vigilant to avoid selfishness and how quickly even good acts can be tainted with a bad attitude or less than perfect motives. This is true of so many people not specifically food bank volunteers. My response to your question was meant to keep me focused on avoiding selfishness first and then to challenge others to be aware of this slippery slope of selfishness and to avoid where it can take us as a society.”