It’s kind of weird when people thank me personally for helping to feed hungry people in Chicago. After all, I work on the Internet most hours of the day. Sure, I help share our mission and help bring in funds, but I don’t have any illusions that the Internet itself can steer a truck into our loading dock or give a bag of groceries to someone. I don’t witness people struggling with hunger, struggling to make the tough decision of rent or food this week. Our member food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens—as well as those working in our warehouse—witness this every day.

That’s why we have a program here called Get Connected, to help get out from behind our desks and experience what goes into hunger relief.

I worked the “Salvage” line recently, just one of the many tasks offered through the Get Connected program. The Salvage area is where all the food collected from food drives comes in, is sorted by quality and expiration, repacked and then distributed to our member agencies.

Heading into this time of year, the food drives start to add up (more than 500 will have been hosted from now through the end of this year). That’s a lot of food to go through, and I’m happy to pitch in. But it can be quite the task.

A conveyor belt whisks by with everything from canned baked beans and boxes of pasta to jars of pickles and juice boxes. I happened to be on tomato sauce/paste and canned vegetables that day. Thankfully, the items going past me have already been inspected for quality and expiration date, otherwise, this task would be nearly impossible. It was three hours of standing, sorting and lugging 40-pound boxes of canned food onto another conveyor.

Your back and legs can’t help but be a bit sore after the job, but being able to get my hands dirty, get in there and do a little manual labor, it’s worth it. I’m working with the food that our community donated so others less fortunate can have something to eat today. That’s not something to take lightly.

I’m writing this a few days removed from Getting Connected, and thinking back, having a sore back from helping feed hungry people—well, that actually feels pretty good.