Alex, Hannah, and Lauren had a chance to volunteer Wednesday night at Casa Valentina, but on Friday all the summer associates (along with Jessica Buchsbaum and Betsi Cobas) came together to give back to the community by volunteering at Feeding South Florida (FSF). FSF is a non-profit organization dedicated to serving the hungry; it rescues 44 million pounds of food per year, as well as leads hunger and poverty advocacy efforts throughout Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe Counties.
We all got up early to drive to Hallandale Beach, where FSF has a sorting warehouse. Once we arrived, we were directed into an orientation room, where we were told to sign in and sit down. There were many summer associates from other South Florida law firms there to volunteer; each of us recognized some familiar faces from law school. Joe Baldelomar, FSF’s Volunteer Coordinator, entered the room and told us about FSF’s mission and methods. He also shared some harrowing facts about hunger in South Florida, including that 1 in 5 children go to bed hungry in the region.
Joe explained the process of how donated food is distributed to the hungry. Donated food is first brought to a FSF warehouse, where it is then inspected, sorted, and shipped away to be distributed in various communities throughout South Florida. We were there to help in the inspection and sorting process. Joe concluded his presentation, and we were directed into another larger area of the warehouse, where donated food is stored.
We were then separated into four groups: “inspectors”, who made sure the donated food was still good to eat; “runners”, who moved boxes of inspected food from the inspection room to the sorting room; “sorters”, who sorted inspected food into different categories; and “builders”, who built boxes for the different categories of food. The Bilzin Sumberg volunteers were inspectors, manning three tables in the inspection room. We each would grab boxes, inspect the donated food inside, throw out any unusable food, and then call for a runner to bring our inspected box to the sorters in the next room. Shawntavia Robinson, FSF’s Sort Coordinator, was there to help us every step of the way, answering any questions we had about the inspection process and ensuring a day without major mishaps (although Eric and I did have one unfortunate incident with an industrial-sized bag of mayonnaise).
When we finished for the day, we threw out the unusable food, cleaned up our tables, and returned to the orientation room. Joe asked the whole group how many pounds of food we thought we had inspected and sorted during the day. A few guesses were shouted out: “1,000!”–“2,500!”–“5,000!” The actual amount? Over 9,000 pounds! Joe told us that would be enough food to prepare over 15,000 meals.
I was inspired to see how a few hours of time could be converted into tangible benefits for those in need. Volunteering at FSF for the day showed all of us the importance of being involved in the community and giving back whenever we can.