Shopping With those in Need: Volunteering at the Foodbank

Saturday, I helped volunteer at the Freestore Foodbank in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood of downtown Cincinnati. I’ve volunteered many times with Freestore Foodbank at their distribution warehouse. Yesterday’s experience put me face to face with those in need.

Early in  my volunteer shift, I worked alongside other volunteers to stock pantry shelves. This foodbank is a choice pantry, which allows people to choose items from the selection available, much like a regular grocery store. From canned goods, hundreds of peanut butter jars, fresh cabbage, onions and other vegetables, as well as frozen meats, we filled the food room up.

As soon as the doors opened, one of the first ladies to come in was using a walker to get around. She couldn’t push a shopping cart, too. I went shopping with her.

This lady with a walker latched on to me and right away, I felt like her friend. We walked together down each aisle together. I helped her gather her choice items and pushed her cart for her.

Each customer to the food room is given anywhere from one to four large paper sacks to fill up with as much food as they can, provided it doesn’t go over a certain weight limit. Produce are freebies, not needing to take up room in their sacks. Family size determines how many sacks of food they can take home with them.

As the volunteering day continued to unfold, I helped keep shelves stocked, helped customers as needed, and did a few maintenance tasks like unfolding paper sacks to hand out.

Chatting with other volunteers, I heard several reasons they showed up to help. “I’m retired, this gives me something worthy to do” and “My son and I came together. I want him to learn the value of helping others.” Me, my reason: “I was once on the receiving end, much like these folks we’re helping. Today, I’m on the giving end.”

This shopping experience is a helping hand to those in need in our community. Giving them food to stock their kitchen gives them one less thing to worry about when it comes to day-to-day financial struggles.

According to the Freestore’s website, this Food Room serves up to 300 families daily and more than 88,000 individuals annually.

From what I saw in the few hours I helped, these numbers are a gross understatement. Only so many people could shop at one time. This left a long line of people waiting their turn. The line never grew short. People in need kept showing up.

The Freestore Foodbank is operated under Feeding America, a national association of affiliated food banks. Feeding America is the largest hunger relief organization, connecting community food pantries in every state in America.

To join the volunteering efforts, you can find out who to contact in your local area and how by visiting the Feeding America website. On this page is a search bar for your zip code.

We can make a difference!


Link to Freestore Foodbank. Image retrieved from this site.

Feeding America. Find your local calling to volunteer through



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2 Replies to “Shopping With those in Need: Volunteering at the Foodbank”

  1. You and the other volunteers there are better than me. I had to work for pay that Saturday morning in my warehouse, you all helped other people unpaid! Your altruism makes you better people.

    1. Ah, but your place, Andrew, in showing up to work is making a positive difference in our society. Its more than I could do when I lived in chaos. All-in-all, I think its about finding a balance; where we can show up to volunteer events, great, and where not, there’s always next time. In the meantime, being kind (altruistic) to others in passing by or crossing paths is another way to be helpful. -Elle-

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