At BMAC, I’m a glorified errand runner. I get into work early in the morning and ask the boss man, Jeff, what’s on tap and his response is almost always the same: “Could you go to Castoldi’s and pick-up the onions?”. I reply, “Yup” and with a cuppa’ joe in one hand and the keys to the rig in the other I head out on my way. In about 7 or so minutes I show up to Castoldi’s Walla Walla Sweet Onion Farm and pick up approximately 500 pounds of onions. The onions are golden brown in color and are perfectly good to eat. To drive this point home, my co-worker Ken once selected a healthy looking onion out of the batch, peeled back the chaffe, and took a big ole’ bite. He swallowed and tossed it to me, saying, “See?”. In fact the only thing holding back these gorgeous onions is that they are not large enough large enough to make it to market. Instead of being placed into mesh bags, the onions graciously fall into my hands, enjoy a breezy ride down Heritage Road back to the Food Bank where they are scrubbed and placed into a banana box by Jean, a fellow onion lover, with the intent to be distributed to the hungry in the Walla Walla County. Then, like any good errand runner, I go to the grocery store. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I head out to Albertsons, more colloquially known as Albees, then to Safeway, and eventually I mosey on over to College Place to pick up from Walmart. On Tuesday and Thursday I get the pleasure of showing my face to the kind folks at Harvest Foods. This part of the job is appropriately named grocery rescue. Rescuing groceries involves claiming all of the perishable and non-perishable products that have reached their sell-by dates and would otherwise be pitched by the grocery store. Instead of being tossed, the groceries are taken back to the warehouse and placed into five categories: Dry, Cooler, Produce, Meat, and Bread, which are then primarily redistributed out to food pantries: Heart to Heart, Salvation Army, Pantry Shelf, and Helpline to name a few. That is my normal morning at BMAC. The afternoons are less interesting, as I normally help out by building pallets of TEFAP food to be trucked out to towns within the Walla Walla county.
Every once and awhile, or often during harvest season, the Food Bank will receive a call from a farmer seeking to donate produce. The reason for donation falls under a plethora of categories, but whatever the reason may be, I am on call for the collection of the produce. I love this part of the job. I get to go on an adventure to farms and backyards all over the Walla Walla Valley to harvest produce. Some farmers are gracious, a few are craggily, but all is the same to me once I am immersed in the field or orchard of produce or fruit. This past week I received a spontaneous phone call from John, at Birch Creek Farms, to harvest corn. I didn’t have time during the day to go out and glean, so I stored up some energy in the afternoon and set out to glean at 5:30 in the evening. I recruited my friend Nick, drove out to Birch Creek in the rig, and met Farmer John, who claimed his corn, watermelon, cantaloupe, squash, pumpkins and tomatoes to be the “Best in the world!”. Collectively, Nick and I glean 588 pounds of corn in an hour and a half. All of that corn was redistributed the next day to low-income seniors in the Walla Walla County.
Experiences like William Booth’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Mitzy Rodriguez