I spent the morning at the Day Center and then at the Food Pantry. Highlight of the first shift was listening to three women discussing the various fine points of double jeopardy, then providing two of the women envelopes, paper and stamps for correspondence to men in detention facilities.
One woman returned the sheet of paper to me as if I were an idiot. "I want lined paper. I'm writing a letter, not drawing a picture!"
Good to have that one for future reference.
I've also been acquainting myself with low cost foodstuffs during time between filling orders. Our Beef and Chicken Rice Mix packages come from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. The Beef Ravioli comes from Second Harvest of Middle Tennessee, with the catchy slogan on the back: "Non-Profit Serving Non-Profit Serving Hungry People."
The vegetable soup comes from the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints in Salt Lake City. The label advises our guests can visit www.providentliving.org for advice on self-reliant living, which I'm sure many would do if the wireless connection just reached down to their camp by the river.
Guests come in for various types of assistance, and my job is putting together three meals each for three days for those who the counselors determine need help with food. For one or two people, it's a pretty simple process, heavy on rice, canned goods, tuna, generic Cheerios (No Cap'n Crunch!), peanut butter and assorted other items to fill out the order.
Things can get a bit complicated when an extended family is getting help, since you're trying to integrate nutrition, variety, ages and larger quantities with the stock available. We always have peanut butter, but not always bread, for example. And some guests have no cooking facilities, or they're walking and can't carry a lot of canned goods.
All we had for non-canned meat product today were the same two frozen containers (chicken livers and tripe) that were there last week. Midmorning, someone cleaning out their freezer brought in a reasonable stock of roasts, steak and stew meat. I forgot to take a picture of the elk steak from 2003. The newest package was dated February 2007.
I suppose some person went home feeling good and maybe planned to claim a charitable deduction. No one got the meat, unless there are some brave dumpster divers out there.
The Outreach Center is church affiliated, though not all volunteers and staff belong to the Catholic Church. They do not push religion in any way on the people coming through the doors. They do pray before they start work, but it's about humility and serving people and seeing Jesus in the faces they meet during the day.
It's an aspect of religious faith in action that would be good for us non-believers to see once awhile, to remind us that the religious are not all the same, either.