Most of the facts I learned in food science class during my freshman year of college have faded to the recesses of my mind, despite my professor’s fruitless attempts at sinking the knowledge in with animated music videos. I do, however, remember one staple of food safety: The consumption of most molds and bacterias are bad for your overall health. Showing up to the Greater Chicago Food Depository on January 11 with G2 Crowd’s team of 26 volunteers, I felt ready and qualified for our task of checking hot dog buns, cinnamon bagels, French baguettes and more for dangerous microbes.
The volunteer crew—which crossed department lines and featured members from sales, marketing, content and HR, to name a few—dispersed throughout the warehouse stations to perform separate tasks in the bread-inspection workflow.
“I was extremely impressed with their facility overall,” G2 Crowd buying advisor Jenna Hopkins said. “Sorting through the bread also made me think about how companies estimate the amount of bread they’re going to be using weekly, and why there is so much excess. Do they add on an additional amount knowing they are going to donate a chunk?”
The “muscle,” as they were called, featured those tall and able enough to grab full crates of bread and dump them onto the date-checking table. Date-checkers checked “best by” dates on packaging to ensure nothing was beyond the freshness timeline.
From there, approved items were passed onto the next table according to type: loaves of bread vs. everything else. These volunteers and I were responsible for inspecting the bags’ contents and ensuring no bacteria-traced food items were passed on to the packaging table. This part of the process would frequently get backed up, with bread flying our way faster than we could check it. Business development representative Kristina Bradley noted how painful it was to get hit with a bag of bagels.
“Let’s just say Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski would be jealous.”G2 Crowd's delusional director of customer success, Brad Rosen
“We made it much more like football than volunteering,” Brad Rosen, director of customer success, said of his food-passing strategies with account executive Nick Espey. “Let’s just say Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski would be jealous.”
Packagers held the job my mom would say I’ve yet to perfect: fitting many soft foods into one container while ensuring nothing gets smushed. From there, the final team loaded finished boxes onto carts that were wheeled away for dispersion.
“It was a ton of fun because you’re with your friends the whole time, and the staff at the Food Repository does an awesome job of keeping people motivated and checking in,” account executive Justin Abrams said. “I will say, I didn’t expect boxes of bread to get heavy, but I guess that’s what happens when you stack 500 of them.”
We learned a lot about the amount of work required to make sure those who need food assistance are offered fresh, quality nutrition. For example, my section had an ongoing bread mold vs. flour debate that slowed our progress. I learned volunteers should always wear gloves, lest they want their hands to turn black from the dirt that accompanies food packaging. Some volunteers were impacted by what they learned about the organization itself. Senior customer success manager Mark Morse was interested to hear GCFD extends its help beyond Chicago in times of need.
“I had the opportunity to work with a full-time volunteer at the GCFD,” Morse said. “Her most impactful story was when the full-time volunteers traveled for two months to support the victims from Hurricane Charley in 2004. They spent all their time and effort to feed the starving families who lost everything in the hurricane.”
The overwhelming consensus at G2 was gratitude for the opportunity to venture outside our office walls and witness the ways our city is moving for those in need. Many expressed an excitement and the desire to go back.
“I like that we were all scattered about, so we were able to talk and interact with other volunteers,” office administrator Shalini Solomon said. “Overall it felt great helping the community and knowing that we were making a difference.”
At the end of our volunteering session, the GCFD informed us that G2 and other volunteers helped sort and package 11,954 pounds of bread, the most bread ever completed in a single go to that date. While the volumes of food were initially overwhelming, those present rolled up their sleeves, got to work and had a good time doing it.
The GCFD accepts volunteers in groups or individually. Those interested in signing up are encouraged to do so here.