Volunteer! Houston Food Bank

I looked at my weather app last night with a sinking feeling, and the thought, “No good deed goes unpunished…” The one thing I worried about, when committing to a shift each month at the Houston Food Bank, was that January or February might bring freezing rain. Or just that blinding, torrential downpour the Gulf Coast often gets, making the nearly 25 mile drive more stressful than it needed to be. And sure enough, AccuWeather was predicting thunderstorms, with breaks I hoped would coincide with the drive.

WP_20150201_014As it turns out, it has barely rained all day. Look at that gorgeous blue sky!

If you’ve never volunteered at the HFB Portwall Warehouse, it’s easy to get to – just off I-10, near Gellhorn. There’s plenty of parking. When you sign up, you get an email confirmation with a single-use QR code to print for check-in when you get there. You scan that and sign in, get your volunteer badge, and wait in the break area for a brief orientation at the start of the shift.

WP_20150201_007Orientation and training take about 15 minutes, and then everyone gets to work. Purses and backpacks are not allowed in the work area; either lock them in your car, or put them into one of the small lockers by the restrooms. You can bring your cell phone, but only to take pictures – not calls, no texting – because they want you alert and aware of your surroundings for safety reasons.

Backpack Buddy Program

WP_20150201_010Today we worked on packing packages of food that are given to some of the neediest kids on the free or reduced-price lunch program. Many children who rely on free or reduced-priced lunches during the school year go home to meager or no meals on weekends. The Houston Food Bank’s Backpack Buddy Program works to fill that gap.

On Fridays, at participating schools and other locations, children take home child-friendly, nonperishable, easily consumed and nutrient-dense food. When available, small toiletries – such as toothbrushes – are included.

The food is given to the children discreetly, to avoid inviting unwanted attention.

Click to learn more about the Backpack Buddy Program.

Not a Drill

WP_20150201_016Today’s break was brought to us by – a fire alarm! Ironically, during orientation, we’d been told there would be no fire alarms. Wrong! About an hour into our shift, we had to evacuate the building through the loading dock. Fortunately, the fire department arrive on the scene quickly, and twenty minutes later, we were allowed back in to resume work.

We got to enjoy the sunshine for a little while – once again, I was thankful that the storms didn’t materialize, after all!

So Little to Ask, for Those Who Need So Much


Here I am, with cans, bags, and boxes of milk and juice. And toothbrushes. It doesn’t seem like much to tide a kid over for the weekend, does it?

On the other hand, I used to babysit for some adorable kids whose single mom had a hard time making ends meet. I remember, once, calling my parents to bring us all dinner – because the only thing in the kitchen was a quart of spoiled, chunky milk. And I do mean that it was literally the only food item in that kitchen. Mom worked hard, got public assistance, and didn’t blow through it on frivolous things to the best of my knowledge. Her kids were good kids, well behaved. They could’ve used one of these bags every Friday, I think. Every little bit helps.

Wow, that’s something to think about while chowing down on the Super Bowl snacks, isn’t it?

WP_20150201_009I really enjoy volunteering at the Houston Food Bank: It’s clean, exceptionally efficient (who knew we all had it in us to be such good assembly line workers?), and fun. Whether you come in a group, or alone, you’ll probably end up working with a small team of people who share common interests.

It doesn’t feel like hard work, but after lunch, I put my head down for “just a minute” and woke up two hours later.



Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/hollyjahangiri. For more information on her children's books, please visit http://jahangiri.us/books.
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6 thoughts on “Volunteer! Houston Food Bank”

  1. I am impressed, at the same time puzzled that there is need for such initiatives in the USA.

    My experience with two volunteer initiatives left me gasping for breath as both turned out to be socialite tea parties! I survived in one as their Honorary Secretary for one whole year but I paid a very high emotional price with the beneficiaries dying one after the other. I quit and now I am in no physical condition to volunteer.
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    1. This was no socialite tea party. There was a team of female inmates from the jail working there, too.Probably a few folks who’d been sentenced to mandatory community service. Lots of kids. Some giving back to the community for benefits they’d received, and some of us overprivileged folks working there and trying to pay it forward. The only snack we got yesterday was water – the concession was closed and the coffee machine was broken. And yet, I think everyone there had a good time. As I said, it’s very clean and well run. Follow the links – read up on the Houston Food Bank, if you want to understand the need for such initiatives. This program only reaches about a small percentage of those in need, by the way, and it is still a pretty massive operation.

      Most of the people they feed are the working poor, children, and the elderly.

      We do seem to hide poverty fairly well, in the U.S., and it is generally not quite as awful as it is in some countries. But we have it, too.

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