Day 5: End Hunger, One Fig at a Time

Meredith DeLeeuw has created her own #VolunteerOdyssey in order to get to know Memphis better and give back to her new community. She’ll be volunteering with 8 nonprofits and sharing her experience through her blog. 

On Day 5 she volunteered with Catholic Charities at their Fig Tree Food Pantry. Check out her story below!

I spent my fifth day of volunteering with the wonderful people at Fig Tree Food Pantry.  Fig Tree is one of the many charitable organizations run by the Catholic Charities of West Tennessee.  In addition to the food

image3 (3)pantry, Catholic Charities of West Tennessee offer clothing, a mobile food pantry, rapid housing, immigration, veteran, and other programs.  They serve all people regardless of religious beliefs, socio-economic, or ethnic background.  It is not just for the Catholic community, it is from the Catholic community.  Their mission is to provide help for those facing chronic poverty based on the teachings of Jesus Christ.  The Fig Tree Food Pantry provides fresh as well as non-perishable food for families in need of emergency relief.  Most of their participants are referred to them from MIFA, Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association.  Fig Tree sets its self apart from other food pantries by offering fresh fruits and vegetables, instead of only non-perishable items.  The difference fresh food makes to a family in need is worth the extra money the food pantry spends on perishable items.

image2 (3)After a short tour of all the Catholic Charities facilities, I met all the volunteer led food pantry staff.  The Fig Tree food pantry staff are truly some of the best people!  Almost on cue, the doorbell rang right at 9 and I was thrust into serving my neighbors.  Every person that comes to the pantry has a slip of paper that tells the volunteers their name and how many people we will be serving.  The food pantry makes packages for as many as eight people in a household.  The non-perishables are pre-packaged into bags or boxes and the fresh food is placed in donated grocery bags.  The volunteers image1 (5)help load up the participants cars or carts.  Every household got a set of fresh eggs and a carton of milk.  Fresh fruit and vegetables are packaged based on the how many people will be eating.  I was amazed by the selection of fresh food the pantry offered.  Families received fresh tomatoes, limes, avocados, apples, bananas, potatoes, green peppers, lettuce, and more!  They also received a variety of frozen meat.  In addition to handing out the boxes and fresh food, one of the wonderful long-time volunteers showed me how to make the non-perishable bags.  These are filled with crackers, canned vegetables, rice, pasta, peanut butter, cereal, and more.  The food pantry does its best to make sure that every family is eating a balanced diet.image4

I never knew that food pantries actually buy their food from food banks and/or organizations such as image1 (4)MIFA.  I always figured it was all based on donations of actual food.  The food pantry does occasionally run out of certain food items.  Luckily, all we ran out of were fresh pears, but we were getting close to being out of milk and juice.  This is where our community comes in!  The food pantry runs mostly off monetary donations, which allows them to buy more food for the families in need.  Volunteers are the backbone of the food pantry.  Without them, they would not be able to package up and hand out the food.  They can always use more helping hands!

A big thank you goes out to the volunteers and staff of the Fig Tree Food Pantry and Catholic Charities of West Tennessee.  They gave me insight to an area of the food system I had never experienced before.

I am even more determined to make sure no families go hungry in Memphis!

If you’d like to volunteer for Catholic Charities like Meredith, go to to sign up!



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