Volunteers from three University of Florida organizations prepared over 15,000 meals in four hours in efforts to end global hunger.
The College of Agriculture and Life Science’s partnered with the Raleigh, NC based Stop Hunger Now, a nonprofit hunger-relief organization, to host a meal-packaging event on Thursday with Gator Wesley and the Collegiate Farm Bureau.
One-hundred and seventy-six volunteers lined up to pack meals of rice, soybeans, vitamins and dried vegetables to be shipped to areas with food shortages. Charlotte Emerson, UF College of Agriculture and Life Sciences director of student development and recruitment, said it was an opportunity for them to come together and package over 15,000 meals.
“But more importantly,” she said, “it’s an opportunity for them to start the process of understanding what being philanthropic is all about.”
Volunteers worked at three locations: packing, weighing and boxing. At the first station, students measured and siphoned the four food components into pre-printed plastic bags. The bag lists nutrition facts and directions on how to cook the food.
Volunteers at the second station weighed the bags to make sure the contents were between 389 grams and 394 grams. Emerson said they take out or put in food if the weight doesn’t fall within this range.
Josh Baker, a freshman architecture student at UF, was a volunteer at the second station. He signed up for the event after hearing about it in his First Year Florida class.
“We’re weight control for shipping,” he said. “We’re putting the last bits of rice in to make sure it’s all even.”
Once accurately weighed, the bags were sealed and sent to the third station to be boxed. Emerson said about 36 bags would be packed into each box.
According to Jason Haulbrook, program warehouse coordinator for Stop Hunger Now, the boxes would then piled into a container that holds about 285,000 meals. Once filled, it can be shipped out to distribution locations.
Currently, the organization serves 71 countries through 21 domestic and six international shipping locations, he said.
In the first year of meal packing, Stop Hunger Now packed 1.7 million meals, he said. Since then, they have grown large enough that they were able to pack 55 million meals last year with the help of volunteers.
“Current statistics state that if the trend of volunteering continues on the path and trajectory that it’s on right now, by the year 2030, we will have completely put an end to hunger,” he said.
Stop Hunger Now has an application process where partners can apply to receive the packed food. Emerson said they’re not sure where the food from the event will go—it mainly depends on where the need is. Last year, she said the meals went to Paraguay.
Haulbrook said the organization has a large goal in sustainability and making sure their distribution areas work toward that same goal.
“We don’t really call it a hand out, we call it a hand up,” he said. “We have an entry plan, a plan while we’re there, and an exit plan so we can move on to the next area of need.”