ORANGE PARK – A sea of red hair nets gathered together recently at St. Johns River State College where they packaged 10,128 meals within two hours for food insecure communities around the world. …
ORANGE PARK – A sea of red hair nets gathered together recently at St. Johns River State College where they packaged 10,128 meals within two hours for food insecure communities around the world.
Around 50 participants, mostly students, took time out of their afternoon March 9to work with Rise Against Hunger, formerly known as Stop Hunger Now.
The college’s Rotaract Club, a chapter of the global community outreach network, raised over $3,000 over the course of the last two years, in order to bring the food-packing event to the school.
“These meals provide vitamins, vegetables and proteins for entire families,” said Shandette Ballesta, vice president of St. Johns’ Rotaract Club. “We are going to make a difference in someone’s life today.”
While the Rotaract Club organized the event, representatives from a number of different clubs and organizations also participated. Ashley Richardson, president of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, participated with several of her chapter members. She was shocked at the pace of the event.
“I didn’t realize how quickly we could accomplish this,” Richardson said. “We just packaged 2,000 meals in 20 minutes.”
Other participants included several other clubs, as well as representatives from student government and college administrators.
Jason Haulbrook, assistant community engagement manager for Rise Against Hunger, is one of two representatives for the state of Florida. According to Haulbrook, the nonprofit operates in over 70 countries, and has more than 500 partners, which are typically schools or churches in struggling communities. However, Rise Against Hunger does not just provide meals, but also seeks to improve the community as a whole. This often takes the form of agricultural or educational projects.
“The goal is to create sustainability. These meals are sort of the doorway into these communities,” Haulbrook said. “Once we’re there, we can help establish what works for them. Just basic literacy, in a lot of cases, makes all the difference in the world.”
Food insecurity is a global concern, with over 815 million people remaining malnourished in 2017, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. This is almost a five percent increase from the 2015 statistic of 777 million people. For perspective, this more than twice the U.S. population, which sits at 325 million as of 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Haulbrook said that Rise Against Hunger, due to participation from different organizations across the country, packaged and shipped over 75 million meals in 2017. While 10,128 meals may seem small in comparison, this didn’t affect the enthusiasm of the participants.
“Any small thing can make a difference,” Ballesta said.