By Nicole Wilson, Chef Instructor
As I came into the warehouse on a crisp October morning at 7:30 a.m., drinking my cup of coffee, I looked for John Sease, one of our drivers, to take me out on his truck that day. I had been curious to see firsthand what it is like for the Food Bank drivers working their daily routines and the impact they have on our organization and community.
John greeted me as he was loading up his Chase “Driving Out Hunger” truck. He was busily moving inventory onto the truck, and the main item today was tomatoes. Other Food Bank warehouse employees and drivers were quickly moving pallets of food, strategizing their plan of attack for the day’s deliveries.
As I jumped into the truck, I was both eager and nervous. Prior to our trip together, I had not had much conversation with John due to our different schedules. John tells me about the route and the partner organizations we’d be visiting. I can already see how passionate he is about his job.
A few people, including John, were surprised I wanted to go with him that day, but I wanted to know the ins and outs of the Food Bank so that I can better advocate for our organization, partners and the people that we touch. John has been with the Food Bank for six years and started in the warehouse and has since become a leader at the Food Bank. He is well liked amongst his peers, and partnering organizations love him.
As we are driving, I ask John how he knows what order goes to which agency
“The donations that come in from the local grocers and farmers get dispersed amongst the partners,” he says.
There’s an order sheet that gets printed out with the food on it, and John knows by heart what the partner receives from the Food Bank. I learned that Mondays and Wednesdays are good days to go out and see where delivers most of the food.
First on our list was Child Inc. It’s located within a development that has many children. When we pulled up, children were catching the school bus. John unloads plenty of boxes of tomatoes, and they are stacked high in the organization’s driveway.
Our next stop is Pantry of Hope. John backs his truck up to their loading dock and greets Mr. Leroy as he pulls up in his van to receive our order. John talks to him for a couple minutes. Mr. Leroy was happy to see John. I inquired about the number of people served at this particular location. He said several hundred people use this site to receive their food. Pantry of Hope shops weekly at the Food Bank, and we also deliver assorted goods once a week.
Donny helps us unload and as soon as it’s off the truck he begins to separate the order in order put it away. Pantry of Hope stays busy working to meet the needs of the community
We quickly move on to the next stop. On the way John gets a phone call from one of our partners inquiring about their food order. John informs the individual that we will be there shortly.
The next delivery is for Neighborhood House. The receptionist, Ms. Rochelle, greets John very quickly as she is multitasking between the phone and receiving our order. Mr. Henry, a Neighborhood House retiree, jumps in to help us unload flats of tomatoes from the pallet. Together we unload 30 boxes of tomatoes, and John and Mr. Henry talk like they have been friends for years! John goes in for a signature and wishes the receptionist happy birthday. She is flattered and tells him to have a good day!
As John expertly drives his truck down this narrow street near Life St. Stephen’s Food Closet we see at least 15 people waiting for our drop off. They look cold and no smiles on their faces. You can feel the down trodden vibe amongst the group. Two guys help John. One gentleman pulls me to the side and tells me how much John is a blessing to them. They say he’s a good man and praise him. I can feel the love they have for him and the Food Bank as I wish them well. Many people in the community depend on John and the Food Bank!
As John rides through Wilmington, he begins telling me about Daryl Graham from JPMorgan Chase. Many years ago, John drove a truck without air conditioning. The summers were brutal! Daryl talked to John and promised him a truck with air conditioning. Daryl made it happen for the Food Bank and now John delivers in an air conditioned truck!
The next stop is the Delawarr State Service Center. Miss Saunders is waiting patiently with a warm smile on her face and greets John with a nice welcome. We unloaded 30 cases for the center and then said our goodbyes and it’s on the road again.
Next, we stop at Harry O. Eisenberg Elementary School and then it’s off to B.J.’s in Newark for a pick up.
We pull up to the loading dock, and Betty greets us with a smile and a hello. She talks with John and explains the pick-up as we go to the freezer to get the inventory. They had a half of a pallet today for the Food Bank.
We head back to the Food Bank and I am told that I would not be allowed to go to the Port of Wilmington due to safety issues. So I decide to go with Erik Klair and Brian Henderson for a pickup at the S.I.W. Farm for the CSA program.
We ride out to the farm and meet the farmer, H.G. Haskell. The farm is very authentic and beautiful. The farm has horses, dogs and even a mole that kept us company. H.G. wasted no time packing up the vans and then we were on our way back to the Food Bank with a load of fresh tomatoes and cabbage.
I learned a great deal about the Food Bank while I was on the road. It showed me that one person can make a difference! Whether it’s being a delivery driver, a chef instructor, a warehouse worker, an administrative assistant, a registered dietician, a CEO, an intern, a volunteer, a programs director, a programs manager, a volunteer coordinator, etc., each one of us at the Food Bank plays an important role!
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to bond with another Food Bank employee, even if it was just for a couple of hours, and embrace the impact that his daily routine has on the surrounding community. I am honored to be a part of the team at the Food Bank and to know the great people that represent this cause to end hunger!
Check out some photos from my trip!