three young girls volunteering at a food bank


Volunteering with my daughter didn’t have the outcome I was hoping for

Dec 19, 2017

Our first time volunteering at a food bank was a warm, enriching experience that we would gladly do again. Well, I would. My daughter? I'm not so sure.

Recently we went to the Parkdale Community Food Bank, and I'd hoped it would become a new family tradition. We entered the space, a modest basement suite filled with food staples and a small office. That's when reality set in.

It wasn't what my eight-year-old had imagined. In her mind, a food bank was a big grocery store without cash registers. And she quickly noticed that it wasn't that. 

“What else did you notice?” I asked my daughter, eager to hear her thoughts on our PA day outing. “It smelled a little funny and some of the chairs were scratched up a bit,” she said.

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I admit that Friday morning wasn’t the romanticized mother-daughter affair I imagined. The hour we spent sorting breads and baked goods didn’t amount to any grand revelations about giving —  at least not right away. Still, I’d hoped to hear a sentiment more moving than “it was kind of boring” and observations beyond “there were a lot of old people...and pet food.”

My little nature lover went on to explain that next time she’d prefer to donate her time at a garden or “animal care thingy.”

I was hoping to witness her brain making the connection between her school's food drive and the many shelves of canned chick peas. And I was waiting for a softness to sweep over her as she saw sisters and brothers from our community get their fill of sustenance. This didn’t happen.

However, there was a teachable moment I couldn’t let go to waste. I sighed a breath of relief when my daughter deduced that the food bank was stocked with primarily healthy foods. She'd determined on her own that it had something to do with a lack of access to healthy foods, noting, “if you’re poor, you’re probably sick a lot so you need healthy food to get better.” Yes!

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For me, what stood out was not the bank's contents but the character of the organization. It was wonderful to see everyone treated with such decency, and the gratitude for our time was so heartfelt. With the help of 50 committed volunteers, the Parkdale Community Food Bank serves 2,000 people per month. That’s something I’m proud to have even a small hand in.

While the food bank wasn’t quite my daughter’s cup of tea, I hope that on some level she took in the same things I did.  That somewhere between the beans and rice, she picked up a notion of charity that will live within her. She’s already a kind and giving young girl, but fostering more opportunities for empathy can’t hurt, right?

What matters most is not the activity itself, but that I’m raising a compassionate human being who understands the value in serving others.

I asked my daughter if she would like to do it again, and unsurprisingly she answered no. But it wasn’t a no to volunteering, it was just a no to sorting food. My little nature lover went on to explain that next time she’d prefer to donate her time at a garden or “animal care thingy.” Fair enough.

Nutrition is something that may inspire me to take action, but I’m open to whatever cause moves her. What matters most is not the activity itself, but that I’m raising a compassionate human being who understands the value in serving others. The seed has been planted, and in addition to our yearly acts of kindness, I look forward to a new tradition of mother-daughter holiday giving in the years to come.

Article Author Debbie King
Debbie King

Read more from Debbie here.

Debbie King (aka SUPAFITMAMA) is a Toronto-based masters athlete, influencer, freelance writer, wife and mother of one. At age 42, she is training toward her goal of becoming a 2020 World Masters Athletics track and field champion. In her work as a writer and influencer, Debbie creates powerful content and connections in female fitness, sport, wellness and culture. Body positivity, inclusion and representation are strong themes throughout. As a regular contributor for CBC Parents, she explores a range of healthy living topics for individuals and Canadian families. Follow her journey at and on Instagram and Twitter.

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