Second Harvest Food Bank: Orlando, FL
The Sri Sathya Sai International Organization (SSSIO) is strongly focused on alleviating hunger throughout the world. Sri Sathya Sai Center of Orlando, Florida has followed suit in choosing feeding the hungry as a focus of its service activities. Hunger has reached alarming proportions in the United States, and in our hometowns, and it is not limited to those living at the poverty level.
A local community food supplier, Second Harvest Food Bank, has been providing an on-going service opportunity for which the Sai Center is grateful. In the early days, the facility was small, minimally equipped and offered no refrigeration. More food was donated than the facility could process. Back then, the service was mainly sorting and boxing of fresh vegetables.
Then, in August 2012, due to government grants and personal donations, a new, state-of-the-art facility was built, capable of sorting, packing, and delivering all varieties of food: fresh and refrigerated, as well as processed and shelved.
Today, products come in from restaurants and food suppliers; sometimes they are overstocked items, or items that didn’t sell. A big vat or tub arrives by fork lift and volunteers do the “first sorting” - reaching into the vat, picking out items and checking the expiration dates. Expired items go into separate bin. Other items are sorted accordingly: cereals, canned goods, dry goods etc., including damaged packages that must be cleaned, or taped, or repackaged again. Volunteers man different stations to accomplish what needs to be done until food items are boxed and shipped out of the food bank. There are usually 15-25 Center members participating in the 2-hour service.
Barbara, a Center member who has volunteered since 2009, shared, “It gives me such a feeling of gratitude for what we have. Sometimes I might not feel like going, but the exercise you get actually transforms your mood - your heart feels lighter, you laugh and talk, and get to know other like-minded people from other groups. There is an upbeat atmosphere - Disney characters decorate the place and they play Disney music - and soon you feel good about yourself. Anytime you give something of yourself, it makes you happy. In fact, one of our young adult volunteers enjoyed it so much that after completing his college degree, he accepted a position at the Second Harvest Food Bank. I think it shows how this service project has transformed him.”
Since the advent of COVID in 2020, the service project is no longer done on a regular monthly or bimonthly basis, but is rather driven by demand, and availability of volunteers. The Second Harvest Food Bank website provides time slots for Sai Center members to sign up to serve.
The SSSIO's motto, “Love all, Serve all”, encourages us to learn to love those we help. Those who are being helped are, in turn, grateful and feel encouraged to spread the love. But hunger is blinding; first, one must be fed. The Sai Center members are grateful for the opportunity to join the many volunteer groups at the Second Harvest Food Bank to end the pain of hunger in their community.