When you first think of the Houston Food Bank, you probably think of a food pantry, with lots of canned goods lining the walls, dust covering the ground, and a few volunteers helping shelve or sort donations. This description could not be further from reality.
When I first walked into the Houston Food Bank to follow up on a Polygal project, I was greeted at the welcome desk. I was then invited to enjoy a complimentary beverage at the Texan’s Café while taking in the ambiance of Christmas décor and holiday music. At any given moment, I saw 1, 2 or 20 volunteers completing their tasks at hand.
I was most impressed to learn about the efforts the Houston Food Bank (HFB) makes in providing healthy, nutritious meals that cater to the needs of an individual. Because of the expansive 308,000 square foot facility and over 259,000 volunteer hours contributed annually, HFB is able to sort donations down to the specifics. “We hope to provide individuals with nutritious meals that contain essentials like protein and vegetables,” says Betsy Ballard, chief communications officer for Houston Food Bank. “We want people to get food they can eat. Many of the people we serve have very specific dietary needs.”
The Carousel Room is one place where volunteers can sort donations into specific categories to enable adequate distribution. This room is remarkable! Not only does the room allow up to 200 volunteers to sort at a time, it is very appealing to the eye. When you enter the warehouse doors, your eye is caught by the brightness of the room. Skylights have been added to let natural light in. Main Street separates the carousels from the other rooms and conference area. Large rack towers, covered with Polygal Ice, serve as a divider. Betsy and the designers chose the opaque plastic because it’s versatile. They wanted to find a way to create a separate feeling and cover the shelves, all while allowing light to come through and keep an open feeling. Graphics were then added to the Polygal to add personality and color.
As you can see in the picture, motorized carousels bring boxes of food that volunteers then sort into the specific category. The room is set up to be ongoing. One group may work for a few hours on Monday, and then a different group will come in Tuesday and pick up where they left off. The job is never complete.
A special thanks to Betsy Ballard, Kayla Elston and the Houston Food Bank for taking the time to show me their facility and inform me of the great work they are doing for Houston and 18 southeast Texas counties. This article is only a snip-it of their outstanding work. Next to come, the incredible efforts of the conference center located in the Houston Food Bank facility. www.houstonfoodbank.org