For two weeks, Jason Clark hardly left the warehouse in Baker, La., an empty Wal-Mart converted into a massive distribution center for food.
At night, he barbecued dinner in the parking lot before going back inside to sleep on an air mattress.
During the day, he worked 12 to 15 hours ensuring the daily delivery of half a million pounds of food to the victims of Katrina and Rita.
“It was hard work, but I felt like we made an impact,” said the executive director of Second Harvest of the Inland Northwest.
Clark returned earlier this week from an area just outside of Baton Rouge, where he was in charge of the temporary site of the Food Bank of Greater New Orleans. With a crew of only 25 people, the Spokane resident helped distribute food and cleaning supplies to more than 30 relief sites.
“Not a day goes by that we don’t get a phone call from the site volunteers thanking us for the food we’ve sent,” Clark wrote in a dispatch Oct. 3. “They also tell us they need more.”
As of last week, America’s Second Harvest network had dispatched 1,321 truckloads (42 million pounds) of groceries and supplies and served more than 32 million meals.
In the warehouse where Clark worked, he and his staff – including Ervin Robison, a driver for Second Harvest of the Inland Northwest – spent much of the day running forklifts, loading trucks and keeping track of supplies.
Most of the food they delivered to the evacuees consisted of ravioli, spaghetti and other ready-to-eat meals in pop-top cans, Clark said.
Clark and his staff awoke at 5:30 a.m. to off-load donations from the food industry and Second Harvest network food banks. Later in the afternoon, they loaded groceries and supplies into trucks headed for the relief sites. Often, their workday didn’t end until 8:30 p.m.
“This was one of the first times that our national network was on the front line,” said Clark, who has worked with food banks for the last 13 years. “It was rewarding for me to see that we were able to focus so many resources on a problem in such a short period of time. … We really can make a difference.”