Weekly Project Journal
Each week of the project, student must submit a project journal entry. The journal entry consists of three parts:
1. Description. What happened in your project this week? What did you do? Experience?
This week I essentially did three things: bagged bread, loaded cars, and data entry. Each client that comes in must be recorded for picking up their food for that month - to do this, each client has a card. The card contains their name, pick-up location, ID number, and program (along with other information that doesn't apply to what I do). I take their info, find them in the computer network, check them off, and then have them sign the book. This is all done at the desk where they enter while other volunteers load up the food.
All of the boxes are pre-packed by volunteer groups, but any extra "special" items (things that need refrigeration, fruit, etc) can't be prepared too soon before pick-up. Hence, this past week I bagged bread; three loaves of bread, two bagels, and either hamburger buns/hot-dog buns. It's important to check the date, check the bread for mold, and make sure it's still in fairly good condition before placing the bread in the bag.
Since CSFP is a direct program, the food needs to be loaded into the client's cars - so this week I also did some of that.
Through all these jobs there is interaction with the clients - so like all costumer service jobs, it's important to be friendly, smile, and with them a nice day.
2. Interpretation. What did you learn from your project this week? About the project? About the issue? About yourself?
Since this was my first week, there was quite a bit to learn. First I needed to learn how the computer system and data entry worked so I could do the desk job- that was fairly simple. In addition, I was able to watch how the people who worked there functioned as a team and how volunteers came in to pack food. Everything is highly organized and efficient; tasks get completed, things are cleaned, and they certainly do rely on volunteers (to pack, to clean, to load, etc).
I was given a tour my first day and this showed me how the food distribution works. People/groups/corporations donate the food, which is then organized and stored in the warehouse (including a massive freezer) according to direct and indirect services. From there it is categorized into heaviest to lightest along a series of isles. In this way, the men who work the machines can fulfill an order from a non-profit organization and not damage any goods. After the men have gathered and packed the requested amount of items, they are loaded into trucks through the back of the warehouse and driven out. Food products that are used in the direct services are brought out to the packing area (which is organized into an assembly line) where the food is packed and then delivered directly into cars.
On this tour I learned some interesting stats and info about Second Harvest Heartland. I can't necessarily remember it all now, but believe I could easily find it on their comprehensive web-page. The man giving me the tour (Dawn) stressed the three aspects of Second Harvest Heartland: donate, advocate, and educate. Dawn was especially big on education because he believes people really just have no idea how wasteful we are and how much trouble people in our own backyard are in. He said that 10% of what MN threw away last year could feed the entire population of Duluth. This is part of the reason they're so big on volunteers - they want to get the word out - they want the pay-it-forward effect. Dawn said that the goal of Second Harvest Heartland is to end hunger in MN, and to do this they need to increase how much food they're giving out, not only to meet the past need, but to fulfill the growing needs (the problem is increasing - but the organization is rising to the demands).
Volunteering at CSFP (one of two direct food service offered by Second Harvest Heartland) means I have a lot of short interaction with the clients. The majority of them are friendly and smiley - and like to exchange short little chit-chats about the day. There is a large amount of diversity; so far I have encountered African Americans, Vietnamese, Mexican, Philippians, Russians, etc. (I couldn't say specifically where their origins are - but you can tell by the level of their English and their ability to write their name/read how long they have been in America - sometimes they're kinda difficult to understand). The majority of them are seniors and mothers (since those are who the programs are for) - but since there can be others who pick up for their parents, or friends, etc. (if okayed on sheets) then I run into different age groups with that as well.
In addition to meeting or interacting with the clients, I get to meet and interact with the people who work there and the other volunteers. There are quite a few people who do office work; although several have come and introduced themselves to me I really haven't met with a lot of them so I don't exactly know what they do. I'm assuming they work with advocating, donations, running the organization, and organizing volunteers.
So far I've met 4 different volunteers who work at the same time I do. Two are a father and son, both retired, who have been volunteering on Wednesday mornings since May. Another guy I met today was volunteering for school as well. And the last person I met today came from a family of immigrants from the Philippians. In fact, one of the clients who came in engaged her in a conversation in a different language, and was trying to encourage/joking her about getting married because of her age (19) - so I ran into a cultural thing too, which was neat because she and I were talking about it later. She told me that her mom had her volunteer there because she wanted her daughter to see immigrants from the Philippians who "have too many children and can't afford them" and thereby learn that she doesn't have to have that life. I thought that was really interesting.
3. Evaluation. How would you evaluate your work on the project this week? What grade would you give yourself? Are you accomplishing the objectives of the project? Your personal objectives?
I think things are going fairly well. Since this was the first week, I've gotten a very basic overview of how things work; since I now know what things I'll be responsible for, I think it will be fairly easy to efficiently accomplish them. With this done, I'll be able to do more on and off-site research to fulfill my other objectives. So far, I was able to get a quick overview of my first and second objective by the tour and observation (Learn the system, organization, and programs of America's Second Harvest and learn the sequence of events in regards to food distribution, from where the food comes from to how it gets to the people in need) - but more in depth study will be needed on and off site. My third objective (learn and get to know who Second Harvest Heartland serves and who benefits from their programs) will be ongoing first hand, with some research on specific stats.