Tales of the Alameda Food Bank


Mrs. Lott has a way of forcing me to do things I should do, but never actually make time to do. She was a big part of my decision to start taking classes at City College a decade ago. She encouraged me to go hard for this great new job I have. This morning we volunteered at the Alameda Food Bank, even though I desperately wanted to sleep in.

She signed us up about a month ago and I agreed, thinking I’d get out of it somehow.  We were up late last night at a party thrown at an insanely weird Airbnb in the Berkeley Hills built for rich sex cultists. We were celebrating her co-worker’s birthday, so there was no extramarital fornication. The place looked like it was owned by Jackie Treehorn from The Big Lebowski. There were dozens of little hideaways in the house and more than enough clues to indicate what usually goes on in this slightly feral architectural wonder is probably on the Eyes Wide Shut spectrum.

Like us, the celebrants were monogamous (as far as I know), and other than the possible destruction of a very expensive espresso machine, nothing too wild happened while we were there. That’s not the point of this story, anyway.

The Alameda Food Bank is a great organization. It deserves your donations and your time if you live near it. The money they receive is put to good use and almost all of it gets turned directly into food for the people who need it.

Most of the help needed from volunteers is sorting donated food in their warehouse or helping to hand it out on pickup days. If you’re able to pick up 50lb bags of apples and potatoes, you will be put to use hauling heavy things around and sorting them into more manageable sized  bags for people to take home. Most of my three hour shift was spent carrying large boxes around and bagging broccoli. I love this sort of work.

Mrs. Lott was assigned to the front of house and helped people shop when they arrived. This food bank has a very cool system where people are allowed to choose what they want ahead of time and volunteers guide them to different stations, making sure they get what’s on their list. The food is actually pretty healthy, there is a lot of produce and the packaged goods are solid staples.

The people who use the food bank come from all walks of life because food insecurity affects people from all kinds of backgrounds. The volunteers are about as diverse as the people they serve. About a dozen strong backed young men from a college fraternity worked alongside old white hippies, Chinese retirees, Mexican high school students and moms from Alameda. These are great people.

I made two new friends I hope to see again the next time I volunteer. The first was a retired motorcycle mechanic in his late 60s who has been riding Japanese motorcycles since the 70s. I always love talking to these grey-beard-gear-heads because I have a strong fondness for the bikes they rode when they were young. I love hearing about what it was like to buy a brand new KZ1000 from a dealership and smash it across the country. For some reason they always seem shocked that I owned a Yamaha RD400 and a Honda Dream in my 20s.

The second friend was a lady from the Philippines in her 60s. She survived breast cancer about 18 years ago and has been making a major go at life ever since. She eats healthy and goes to the gym all the time. Yesterday she went to two Zumba classes, speed walked on a treadmill for two hours and played basketball with her friends afterwards. Her energy was out of control.

I’m definitely going to make this a monthly thing. As much as the Alameda Food Bank appreciates the help, the truth is, I think I got more out of it than they did. I had really fun conversations and got a pretty solid workout in. But more than that, I got out of my own head for a little while. You can’t feel anxiety or any of the other bullshit that keeps you down when you’re serving others. It’s sort of like the Spartan thing, don’t worry about yourself, worry about the person next to you.

If you live in the Bay Area and you want to volunteer with me, I’d love you to be there. This is the real work that needs doing, not the self congratulatory nonsense political cosplay you see on the internet. That shit is for losers. Don’t be a loser. Be someone who helps people.

If you can’t make it out yourself, please consider a making donation: http://www.alamedafoodbank.org/donate/


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