Produce to People (Jan Baumann)

Produce to People is the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank’s large-scale produce distribution program. They operate 17 distributions each month at 17 different locations. Each family receives 30-50 pounds of food, mostly fresh produce.

Westminster provides all of the volunteers at the north side location 3 Saturdays a year and has done so for at least the past 9 years. We register folks, prepackage food when necessary, hand out food, and help people to their cars or to the bus stop when needed. It may not sound like much, but it makes a huge impact on the volunteers who help and the people who receive the food.
We served several weeks ago in October and I haven’t stopped thinking about the experience. Every time we go, the work is about the same, but the people are different and therefore the experience is different.

This past time…

I met people who began showing up at 6:00 a.m. (the distribution didn’t start until 10:00 a.m.) to make sure they were first in line to get the good stuff before we ran out.
I met people whose car didn’t start that morning…or who can’t afford a car so they came on the bus or piled into a neighbor’s car with so many people that there weren’t enough seat belts to go around or trunk space to hold all of the food when they left.

I met people who stood in line to get cabbage, eggplant they didn’t know how to prepare but they took it anyway, carrots, less than perfect spaghetti squash, the tiniest cucumbers I have ever seen, and cheerios without the box…and they were grateful.

I met people who could barely walk, who walked from so far away that I couldn’t see them reach their destination.

I met people who didn’t speak English.

I met 2 blind people.

I met old people and young people and children (I wonder if standing in the food bank line will be a childhood memory or still be a way of life when they grow up), and middle aged people.

I met people whose clothes looked old.

I met people who smelled bad.

I met people who smelled better than me.

I met someone having a conversation with someone who wasn’t really there…at least I couldn’t see them.

I met people struggling to carry their groceries home, but were too proud to accept help.

The best part of the morning was that I met people. People who took the time to look me in the eye, who thanked me, who smiled at me, who requested that God bless me.

Produce to People was several weeks ago and I can’t stop thinking about the people’s faces I met. All I had to do was show up for a couple of hours and God really did bless me. The morning was much richer than anything else I had on my “to do” list. I have concluded that I am too busy not to show up the next time; I need to look for more next times. Please join me. I will be happy to help you find the “first time or the next time” that works for your life.

Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me. Matthew 25: 45

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