Cloudera’s June Volunteer Spotlight is Michael Billau, customer operations engineer from Raleigh, North Carolina! Michael volunteers with the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.
The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina provides food daily to the over 200,000 people facing food insecurity and hunger in the Raleigh area, while simultaneously building solutions to end hunger permanently in communities across North Carolina.
When asked, “What made you choose to volunteer with this organization?” Michael shared that while growing up, his family also faced food insecurity and now, as an adult, he sees first hand the extent to which food insecurity affects his community.
“My local church is a food distribution center. Weekly, the church gives food to families in our community in need. It is a reminder of the extent of food insecurity in our communities.”
Michael continued, “I have volunteered with the food bank in the past so I received a recent call to action asking for volunteers; expressing their dire need for support in order to meet the demand. I wanted to join the effort. I know we as a society grow plenty of food to feed everyone in the world, yet there is still rampant food insecurity due to things like logistics, waste, and systemic issues.”
As a volunteer, Michael sorted through tons—and he meant tons—of sweet potatoes donated to the food bank by local farmers.
They separated the ones with rot and fungus from the ones safe to donate and bagged them so families in need could easily take them home. In one day, Michael helped sort 5600+ lbs of potatoes that will be distributed this week to over 900 agencies covering 34 counties in North Carolina.
And although Michael has volunteered before, he still observed new and surprising things.
“I was surprised about how much logistics go into this organization; they take in thousands of pounds of food each week from local farmers, grocery stores, food drives, etc., and it is a miracle that they are able to sort through and distribute so much food every week. And it’s not an option to skip a week or miss a target because the food bank distributes food to 900 other smaller agencies that then distribute it to the actual families in need.”
Over 21 million pounds of produce was distributed by the food bank last year. Imagine how many tons of potatoes that is!
As we concluded, I asked Michael what one of the most rewarding aspects of the experience was. He shared, “Thinking about the chain reaction—how many people i.e., full families, seniors, children ‘down the line’ benefit from this work and this organization. It’s humbling.”