As a first year student in the social services, this is what I've learned from my experience working in a food bank.
What I've Learned from Working at a Food Bank
I spent high school as the leader of the GSA club. I wasn't afraid to publicly speak out on any issues and was always there to help any friends going through discrimination. In other words, I cared about others, which is what led me to the course I've now chosen for college—social services. Despite some struggles I've had with a province-wide strike, I managed to stick with the course and I know it's something I truly love. In my course, however, for our second term, there was a requirement that we would be put into a field placement. In other words, we'd be working with social service workers in the field for education instead of pay. This can be quite an exciting experience and a way to see what we'd like to do for a living; testing the waters, so to speak.
My placement was at a food bank, but it was a lot more than that. It also supplied clothes, personal care items, and they even had a section to help people find housing who are homeless. It was an interesting way to see the social classes, even the people who are living under the wage that could use some help have the people who are better off than others and the people who barely get by even with these resources.
I also had no idea how many aspects there were to this food bank. I think it's so amazing that even without the point system, every day they're open someone can come in and grab a free bag of bread. The fact that this one stop supplies food, clothes, diapers, kids toys, etc., is incredible to me and will help so many low income families. I love how there's also the second floor that helps people find homes or get their ID replaced. It's a one stop with so many ways to help people and their families.
It became quite obvious to me who was there because they needed help and who just tried taking advantage of the service. Some clients would thank me for anything they could get, whereas others stormed out angry, saying we had nothing for them, even in our fully stocked food room. The place works on a point system—depending on how many points you have can determine how much food you can get, as well as limits on certain types of food. The ones who were more in need always tended to go for breads, pastas, soups, and vegetables—whatever could sustain themselves. There are enough options available that even people who are vegetarian, vegan, allergic to gluten, etc., have access to a lot of food that can help them sustain themselves. Furthermore, the clients who were picky tended to grab more of the cookies and boxes of Kraft Dinner, seeming more like looking for extras in addition to what they have than purchasing what will keep them healthy.
When given the opportunity to take advantage of something, those who don't need as much help had more greed than those who were in need of whatever they could get. Someone with less was less likely to push for more than someone just trying to abuse the system. If they really did need the help, they would take what they could. Sure, there'd be exceptions with allergies or belief systems (vegetarian, vegan, Muslim) but they would take whatever they could in those circumstances if they really, truly needed a lot of help.
Through this experience, I've learned a bit about people, about how they function. Those who truly need help have a harder time accepting it than those who really don't.