By Virginia Eader, MSW Intern
In 2010 Family Works collected over 522 tons of food through the generous support of the local Wallingford and Seattle community. FamilyWork’s dedicated staff and volunteers work hard to ensure that all of the food is carefully sorted, organized, refrigerated, and made ready to distribute to eager customers throughout each week.
As with most food banks, storage capacity and mobility of food can be quite challenging. When Sanjay Rao, food bank volunteer and FamilyWorks board member, first began working in the food bank he witnessed the heavy moving and shifting of the 300-400 pound stacked crates of food. “There’s got to be a better way,” he thought.
Staff and volunteers began brainstorming ways to improve the mobility of food. After researching costly solutions and testing out three hand-made prototypes, it was decided that a simply designed wood frame with swivel wheels could be a hopeful solution. To help with building the carts, the project became a great community service opportunity for a group willing to help out. Thirteen students from Franklin High School’s Woodshop class, one of the few Woodshop programs left in Seattle, stepped up to the challenge.
Mike Lawson, who has been teaching Woodshop at Franklin for the past 16 years, was excited to get his students involved with the project. “It’s a big world out there and I want students to see that they can have a part in it,” Lawson said. This is the third community service project the class has done this semester.
Food bank volunteers pooled together to get the necessary supplies for students to make the carts. Just over a week after the materials were delivered, students had all 25 carts complete.
Reflecting on the project, Junior Angela Ma says, “It was very fun. Like an assembly line, everyone put in effort to help make each cart.”
The building of the carts required that the students use a combination of skills including math, reading, following detailed directions, precision cutting and drilling, as well as a great deal of collaborative problem solving and communication.
Lawson described the learning process, “It was pretty cool watching [the students]. You could really see their gears turning. In this class every kid has a chance to be a rock star. They don’t necessarily have that chance in other parts of their life.”
Many students expressed excitement about helping the food bank through their class work.
“It’s nice to be able to put something to use. We can go out in the community and say ‘oh wow’ I made this’,” Senior Maddy Williams said. Junior Jonathan Chac agreed, “It felt good because it’s not just for a grade. I’m actually helping people.”
The students are hoping to be able take a field trip to FamilyWorks to see their hard work in action. Some students even expressed the desire to volunteer after school. In the mean time, the carts will help keep thousands of pounds of nutritious food moving more efficiently throughout the food bank each week. The benefits of this collaborative project will help to better serve the individuals and families who need it most.