Last week, a Romanian delegation of fourteen government officials toured the food bank as part of an international initiative with the UCF School of Public Administration. Dr. Tom Bryer of UCF brought the group from Bucharest and counties throughout Romania because they are interested in establishing the first-ever food bank organization in their country. They had many questions about structure, governance, financing, volunteers, and anything else you could think of to know about starting a food bank. They came to the right place!
Mayors, general managers, presidents of city councils, finance managers and hospital administrators were quite impressed as we provided a tour and described our impact. Circumstantial differences between our two countries became immediately clear during our discussion. For example, Romania lacks any tax incentives for food companies to donate; the same goes for financial donations.
The concept of volunteering is very different in Romania, most people expect to get something in return; ideally to get paid. The experience deepened my appreciation for American culture around volunteerism. I can’t begin to imagine how this mission could work without the 71,000 volunteer hours contributed to Second Harvest Food Bank last year alone.
The Romanian government has a lot of work to do regarding policies that will help establish an environment of support for a future food bank. I encouraged them to continue their visioning process. I’m always filled with hope when people get together to do the right thing and to look out for their fellow citizens.
We share two things in common with Romania – surplus food and lots of people in need. The magic is how the dots get connected. Who knows, maybe there’s a Romanian summit in the future?!