Volunteering for the Voedselbank (Foodbank)

Team Green OfficeGeen categorie

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You can volunteer and still have plenty of time left for your exams, social life and job. At the Amsterdam Voedselbank you can help Amsterdam’s less fortunate and it won’t take much more than two hours of your time! Read about our experiences below!


[/cmsms_text][cmsms_heading type=”h4″ font_weight=”normal” font_style=”normal” text_align=”center” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”20″ animation_delay=”0″]Distribution centre[/cmsms_heading][cmsms_text animation_delay=”0″]

Honestly, before going to the Voedselbank to volunteer I was a little reserved about what to expect. However, when I arrived they gave me a friendly welcome and I felt like my presence was appreciated by everyone. Before we started the actual work I encountered a regular volunteer, in the canteen, whose occupation is within an external organization’s financial department. In his job he handles a great deal of money. In contrast, at the Voedselbank he is reminded that there are many people who are much less privileged. He shared with wisdom that it’s important to recognize this reality from time to time, and that is why he keeps coming back each week to contribute what he can.

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The work itself is quite easy and light. The distribution centre receives copious amounts of food donations and it was our job to divide these into cradles and pallets for each close city or village. Since we were handling cooled foods we were in a huge refrigerator, so in the beginning it was a bit cold. They gave us gloves to borrow, which definitely came in handy! Luckily, after working a little, the cold was barely noticeable.


When we had worked for about an hour or so, they invited us for a break in the canteen, where they served coffee, tea and hot chocolate, sodas and PIZZA. That was a pleasant surprise. There was a bit of chitchat, the regular volunteers were catching up with each other, but they were also interested in hearing more about what brought us to volunteer. After the break we went back and the group got divided, half of us went back to the refrigerator and the others went somewhere else in the barrack. After another hour of work we were done, they genuinely thanked us for our help and told us we could take some leftover bread with us on the way out.

On the way home I felt satisfied about this evening, because the work wasn’t really “work”; it was light and easy, it didn’t consume that much of my time and the people all were so nice and thankful for our help. In conclusion, it was a nice experience and they can definitely count on my help again in the future.

Non-dutch speaking and still want to volunteer? No problem. Everyone knew at least enough english to have a conversation. During our experience at the distribution centre, we met a handful of international students who come to volunteer quite often and don’t experience any problems regarding language barriers.

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[/cmsms_text][cmsms_heading type=”h4″ font_weight=”normal” font_style=”normal” text_align=”center” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”20″ animation_delay=”0″]Highlights[/cmsms_heading][cmsms_text animation_delay=”0″]

1)      Meeting a diverse group of people coming together to celebrate the common good of a community was a rewarding experience. Ages ranging from 20s to 50s, stemming from different parts of the globe, we could bond over what sparked our interest with volunteering at the foodbank and what brought us to Amsterdam.

2)      When I first arrived I was greeted with smiling faces and a warm cup of hot cocoa! There was about 10 minutes before we began to “work”, allowing for myself to get acquainted with my surrounding and those I would be spending the next couple hours with. The entire faculty was incredibly upbeat and grateful for our presence. I felt welcomed and appreciated, something we all enjoy feeling!

3)      PIZZA! After the first hour of packing boxes, they had us all re-group in the warm community seating area for freshly baked pizza, soda, and chit-chat. The staff there cares about their volunteers, making sure we are well-fed, warm, and comfortable.

4)      I felt very safe throughout the entire experience


[/cmsms_text][cmsms_heading type=”h4″ font_weight=”normal” font_style=”normal” text_align=”center” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”20″ animation_delay=”0″]Things to remember:[/cmsms_heading][cmsms_text animation_delay=”0″]
  1.       Wear layers!!! I had multiple socks, jackets, mittens, and a hat on for the adventure. We migrated in and out of the warehouse freezer, and those extra articles of clothing kept me from getting chilly.
  2.       Show up 15 minutes early to ensure you are at the right location and to have the chance to settle in and greet the fellow volunteers. It is a pleasant initial greeting and worth leaving the house earlier.


[/cmsms_text][cmsms_heading type=”h4″ font_weight=”normal” font_style=”normal” text_align=”center” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”20″ animation_delay=”0″]Pick-up point[/cmsms_heading][cmsms_text animation_delay=”0″]

We also wanted to see where the food packages, instead of the bigger amounts of food as in the distribution centre, were distributed, so we went to the foodbank distribution point in the Baarsjes, Amsterdam West. At around 17:00 the truck with the food arrived. It was fascinating how happy the driver looked while doing the de-truck in the cold rainy weather: he was a volunteer too. He eagerly explained what we should do and made jokes while explaining how we could work most efficiently. Within a couple of minutes more volunteers arrived, we exchanged greetings, and before we could explain exactly what we were doing there, everyone started working. There wasn’t any time to lose! The “customers” were about to arrive in 1,5 hours and the pick up point wasn’t yet ready for its customers! One by one, every single food box, including donated fruits and vegetables, were being de-trucked. After approximately 45 minutes all the work was done, the experienced volunteers expressed with satisfaction that it was “exceptional” to finish this task so early! This was probably because of the extra manpower from the presence of the two of us.

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Everything was ready for the customers. Individuals and families (who meet the requirements) can pick up a box once a week. Although its content is not enough for the whole week, the foodbox is an important helping hand for Amsterdammers that are struggling to make ends meet.

What struck me was that there were a lot of people with children among them. This should not have come as a surprise, but it is still hard to imagine that in a fairly rich country like the Netherlands there are children that grow up in a household were having enough to eat is not self evident. That’s why volunteering is necessary. While waiting for the customers, we had great opportunities to talk with the other volunteers and asked them why they volunteered; Because it was a small investment for both the clients and for themselves. It made them feel good to do something for people in need. Some volunteers explained it is also really fun working with the other volunteers too, it was a socialization moment. The amount of hours per week differed per person, some of the volunteers did volunteering 3 hours a week, some did 3 hours in two weeks; it’s a free choice without any boundaries!

[/cmsms_text][cmsms_heading type=”h4″ font_weight=”normal” font_style=”normal” text_align=”center” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”20″ animation_delay=”0″]Interested?[/cmsms_heading][cmsms_text animation_delay=”0″]

161215-foodbank12Check out https://www.greenofficevu.nl/community-platform/ to learn how you can sign up for a two hour shift at the distribution center or contact a pickup point in your neighbourhood.

We’re especially looking for volunteers to contribute by packing these packages on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening, 18.00-20.00 pm

Sign up for any day you like via http://kalender.voedselbank.org/

For more information on the work and how to sign up click here.

[/cmsms_text][/cmsms_column][/cmsms_row][cmsms_row data_width=”boxed” data_padding_left=”3″ data_padding_right=”3″ data_color=”default” data_bg_position=”top center” data_bg_repeat=”no-repeat” data_bg_attachment=”scroll” data_bg_size=”cover” data_bg_parallax_ratio=”0.5″ data_padding_top=”0″ data_padding_bottom=”50″][cmsms_column data_width=”1/1″][cmsms_divider width=”long” height=”1″ position=”center” margin_top=”50″ margin_bottom=”50″ animation_delay=”0″][cmsms_heading type=”h4″ font_weight=”normal” font_style=”normal” text_align=”center” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”20″ animation_delay=”0″]See what other volunteers think of working at the Voedselbank (Note: video is in Dutch)[/cmsms_heading][cmsms_embed link=”https://youtu.be/Buz9BFHgCqg” wrap=”true” animation_delay=”0″][/cmsms_column][/cmsms_row]