Bruno Mars’s “Uptown Funk” echoed across the Jim Graham Building at the State Fairgrounds as more than 1,100 people scooped and bagged rice from crate-size boxes into family-sized portions.
Sprawled throughout the warehouse, volunteers worked in groups of five, leaning over the large cardboard bins. Others packed bags with apple sauce, juice, sunflower seeds and other healthy snacks. Within a few hours, they had bagged 175,000 meals and 30,000 snacks.
The annual Sort-A-Rama drew employees from Duke Energy, Research Triangle Foundation, RTI International and 16 other Triangle companies on Thursday to do assembly work for The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. The food bank will distribute the rice meals to its six branches and more than 800 local soup kitchens and food pantries. The snacks will help the roughly 300,000 children who, during the summer, don’t have access to free and reduced-priced lunches at school.
Krisanne Burks of Apex was one of 150 Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina employees to attend the event. Throughout the morning, Burks and other volunteers moved from bin to bin, working towards their goal of 175,000 meals. The environment was excited and upbeat, with some volunteers dancing as they worked.
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“What I think is neat is that we’re not all Blue Cross people working together at one bin filling food bags,” Burks said. “We are with people from Food Lion, people from IBM and Cisco, and BASF. It’s cool to get to know other people in the area.”
The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina has a limited space, and the annual Sort-A-Rama has become a way to allow more volunteers to help. About 400 volunteers came in 2012, and the number has almost tripled since then.
“Every year we get more and more requests to get involved,” said Jennifer Caslin, one of the organizers. “We’re going to have to find a bigger space eventually if we’re going to keep doing this because so many people want to be involved.”
Caslin says the event is popular as a group activity. “It’s become a very big corporate sort of bonding experience for the employees that come in,” she said.
Despite the growing success of the Sort-A-Rama, the meals will be able to reach only a portion of people who suffer from food insecurity – the lack of nutritious food or food in general. North Carolina has some of the highest food insecurity rates in the nation, and across the food bank’s 34-county service area, more than 650,000 people live in a food insecure household.
“This [Sort-A-Rama] will make a big impact, but it won’t last very long unfortunately,” Caslin said. “There’s just too many people out there, and they’re in need all year long.”
To learn more about the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina and other volunteer opportunities, visit www.foodbankcenc.org.
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