In March, University of Georgia students in the IMPACT program spent their spring break learning about pressing social issues and addressing community needs through service. After volunteering at our Durham Branch, Monica Cheung reflected on the experience.

Basmati rice. Organic Mac n’ Cheese. These items and other donated pantry staples zoomed past my eyes as I grabbed them from a table and utilized my non-existent Tetris skills to fit them in their respective banana boxes. After four to six hours of constantly doing this along with 18 other people, we were able to sort over 22,500 lbs of food, equating to over 18,000 meals at the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina’s Durham Branch.

University of Georgia students volunteered at our Durham Branch

Although I didn’t sort any onions, my eyes started to water as I thought of how many people in need would use that food including the homeless, various shelters, and senior citizens who can no longer attain their own groceries and meals.

The entire process was extremely streamlined as it was the most organized assembly line I was ever a part of. Before our IMPACT group started organizing the items, we learned how far the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina served and their process of distribution. Once we were knowledgeable on the ins and outs of the program, we split up into different groups, and the party began (there was a speaker with the radio on, so it actually kind of did feel like a party).

One group took the unsorted items out, checked to ensure their quality, placed them on the table, and then brought the empty boxes to the back where another group packaged the boxes to be used for next time. My group sorted out the acceptable items in their respective categories such as dry food, water, wet food in glass containers, and wet food in plastic containers. Another group then topped the banana boxes and brought them to their respective pallets. Finally, two of our members shrink-wrapped the pallets, and brought them to their final location.

Although the work was tiring, it was amazing to see how much could be accomplished through teamwork and high morale (the speaker really was a blessing). Hearing those final numbers gave me faith in how big of an impact could be made by a group of college kids.