This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, no one was idle at the OC Food Bank in Garden Grove as more than 200 volunteers from UCI and the community worked with the nonprofit corporation to put together boxes of food to donate to nonprofit organizations which aid underprivileged groups and individuals.
Waking up before 8 a.m. on a day off from school and work for a “day on” to honor MLK, students hastily and productively compiled neat packages consisting of supplies and foods like juices, dried milk, canned chicken and cereals. Students working together with the Cross Cultural Center and volunteers from the community wore t-shirts that said, “What Will You Do? MLK Jr. Day of Service.” They laughed and jovially trudged along as an industrial-sized radio in the background echoed hits from the current Top-40 charts.
With the scraping sound of boxes being sealed shut with masking tape, the continuous beep of forklifts in reverse, the pounding of unmade boxes tossed against the floor, the rolling boxes on assembly lines and the clatter of items thrown in boxes in a Tetris-like manner amongst the chatter of over 200 volunteers, the warehouse was anything but quiet. Nick Hardi, a senior and anthropology major, said volunteering is a part of his class requirement for Civic and Community Engagement, but he is authentically glad to be a part of it all.
The OC Food Bank’s goal is to reduce the effects of poverty by providing resources to inspire and teach self-sufficiency. Their efforts are made possible with the help of volunteers to organize the donated food and supplies that they receive. The OC Food Bank is a factory-sized warehouse, with 86,000 square feet of storage room that houses boxes of canned goods and personal supplies that appear as skyscrapers in the high-ceilinged building.
Volunteers from UCI are not the only ones commemorating MLK for a day of service at the Garden Grove warehouse. Popularly known as a day to give back to communities, families and groups from around Orange County also contributed, working in stations to achieve the highest amount of efficiency, even children as young as five years old worked alongside their parents. Lines of volunteers amassed in groups pushing boxes down assembly lines, placing rice and applesauce in the medium-sized brown boxes sporting the green-lettered OC Food Bank logo.
Director of the Cross Cultural Center, Kevin Huie, encouraged the volunteers and downplayed his own contribution to the effort.
“It was all the volunteers themselves who did most of the organizing,” he says. “I drove myself here,” he asserts, “they really did it all themselves.” He also confirmed that the Homecoming Court were among those out to volunteer.
The food bank is able to donate nearly 20 million pounds of food annually as a result of donations from the government and offers food and personal care items to over 375 nonprofit organizations such as soup kitchens, churches, homeless shelters and senior centers. On average, the bank feeds up to 165,000 people a month.