A volunteer shift at Northwest Harvest builds muscles while filling bags with food

By scooping 600 pounds of rice, Nicole Tsong gets a good workout by doing good work.

WHEN I FIRST saw the pallet stacked with 50-pound bags of long-grain white rice, I thought there was no way we could get through all of them, especially with a group of just 13.

I underestimated our abilities.

I was at Northwest Harvest’s facility in Kent to volunteer to pack food — and get some movement in while supporting a good cause. Northwest Harvest is a food-bank distributor, supplying 375 food banks with more than 2 million meals every month from donations, or from food the nonprofit buys.

Northwest Harvest


Volunteers help sort bulk food. Our job was to divvy up and pack rice, scooped one pound at a time into plastic bags, then twirled, sealed and packed neatly into boxes to distribute to families in need.

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After a quick orientation, we put on hairnets, washed our hands, pulled on gloves and got to work.

Volunteer duties range from bundling the bags that go into boxes to scooping. I chose scooping, figuring it was likely physical.

Was it ever.

I stood at a giant stainless-steel bin, where Lonnie, a Northwest Harvest employee, cut open and dumped bags of rice. We had plastic cups to dig into the hills of rice to put in plastic bags. A runner gathered our bags and took them to the packing tables, where people sealed them and put them in boxes.

I scooped vigorously at first, trying for speed while also filling my cup to the brim. I felt each additional bit of rice would mean something to a family, and worked on creating a little snow cone of rice before putting it into a bag. I chatted with Pat and Chuck, my fellow scoopers. Both were new and planned to volunteer weekly.

After a lot of scooping, my right hand was getting tired from gripping the cup, so I switched to my left.

Things slowed down on my nondominant side. I sometimes would miss the bag,…

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