If you have been to an Ian’s Pizza, it won’t come as a surprise that we like to work hard — and when we aren’t working we like to party down. So at staff party time we go all out, and make it fun and simple for our employees and their families — show up, get some good grub, grab a cold drink, and have a blast.
This year, however, we wanted to do something a little different. If you were coming to the January 2017 Ian’s party you had to take part in a few hours of work giving back to the community first. After searching Madison for a volunteer organization we chose to put in some time at Second Harvest Food Bank. They have an established system that made it easy for our large group to step in for a half day. We didn’t really know what we would be in for other than helping Wisconsin families that were in need.
Arriving at the warehouse on the southeast side of town it was obvious that this was a serious operation. That place is huge! The Director of Operations welcomed our group and gave a quick rundown of the work the food bank does — and the truly enormous scope of their impact. They find food that would potentially be wasted, along with groups or corporations who want to give their product to people who need it. We are talking literally millions of pounds of food a year.
Major sources include grocery stores, food manufacturers, and farmers. Second Harvest picks up truckloads of food that has been either overproduced or cosmetically damaged (but is still delicious) and bring it back to a warehouse to separate into family-sized portions. Then they deliver that to hundreds of permanent food pantries across Wisconsin. Some rural communities don’t have the established infrastructure to provide residents with food, but the need is still there so they create ‘pop-up pantries’ and give out enough food to last a couple weeks. They also provide education to the public about hunger awareness, telling the stories of our Wisconsin neighbors who, for a variety of reasons, find themselves in need of a little help. In this role they also give families information about the government assistance programs they may be eligible for.
After the Director’s brief introduction he took us on a quick tour of the warehouse including a walk-in cooler that made me green with envy. Our cooler at Ian’s on State is always packed tight and I would kill for an extra square foot or two — theirs is the size of a basketball court!
Then it was time to wash up, put on aprons, gloves, hair and beard nets, and get to work. Our task for the day was opening boxes of breaded chicken, weighing out three pound bags, sealing them, putting them back into the boxes and organizing them on big pallets. We were determined to show that the Ian’s crew knows how work hard and work fast! Forming an assembly line, we got through the first pallet in about 45 minutes and they just kept rolling in more of them, one after another. 30 of us worked for three hours and packaged over 2000 lbs. of chicken! We had a great time, challenging each other to be the fastest packers while singing along to the classic rock radio station they were playing. (Side note: Journey rules!)
Later that night, at the party we traded stories as we enjoyed our feast, and all had to agree that the experience was great. There is no doubt we will be doing more community work like this in the future. I can’t recommend volunteering enough — please if you have even a little free time, reach out to Second Harvest or one of the other great non-profits serving the community in Dane County. You won’t regret it!
– Harry Charles, Ian’s Pizza Team Leader