Recent volunteer opportunity at local food bank brings sense of renewal

By Bruce Learner, Senior Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility and Partnerships, Kellogg Europe

I had the great privilege to volunteer at a local food pantry here in Manchester called The Bread and Butter Thing.

The organization collects excess food that is perfectly safe to eat, but that would otherwise be discarded due to overproduction, slight imperfections to the food or its packaging, or because the food is close to its “best before” date (not to be confused with expiration date).

The Bread and Butter Thing collects food from companies like Kellogg, sorts it and stores it in a warehouse, then sends pallets of it to one of its “community hubs”. These are usually community centers or other public buildings like libraries.

I loved seeing the process from start to finish.

I got there when the food arrived at 7:30 in the morning, then I and other volunteers began to sort and pack it for distribution later that day. We packed 120 bags of cereal, fruit and other foods, and then put the bags on a pallet to take to the community center.

Once we got to the community center, we took the food off the pallet and set it out on tables. Community members in need pre-register to collect their bags of food and pay a small amount of money just to cover operational costs. There are lots of different foods and brands being distributed, but I always get a little stab of pride when I see our food in the mix. On this occasion, amongst the fresh fruit and veg, the eggs, pasta and tinned goods, there were Kellogg’s Corn Flakes & Bran Flakes.

There are one or two paid staff on hand, but other than that, the entire operation is run by volunteers.

One of the things I like about this approach is that people pay something, a small amount, because it makes them feel better – like they’re not just getting something for nothing. I think it also gives the food a sense of value which can be important.

It was such a breath of fresh air being able to volunteer again. I could sense quite a buzz as people were coming together again after so much time at home in lock-down or partial lockdown. This was definitely a social occasion as well as a “shopping trip.” In fact, watching everyone chatting and milling around it reminded me of one of those TV documentaries on nature when animals leave hibernation in the spring and they are full of the joys of life! Like so many other people around the world, we had been isolated for so long because of the pandemic.

I loved seeing the food travel from the warehouse to the beneficiary, but the overall sense I had from the day was that people were just excited to be able to come together. I chatted with a few of the community members who came to pick up their food. Some told me their story of why they’re there. Others kept to themselves. But it was all very dignified and upbeat.

Kellogg prioritizes volunteerism in each region we operate.

I do it because I can – and because Kellogg supports it. I know a lot about the work we do, but I love getting out there and seeing it come to life. I always equate it to our company’s purpose, which is creating better days and a place at the table for everyone through our trusted food brands. 

If you’ve been pent up and are looking for a way to get back out into the world, and you feel comfortable mixing with others, I’d suggest that volunteering at your local food bank could be an option.

It’s easy to do and satisfying on so many levels – socially, emotionally and physically.

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