University of Richmond students can help provide meals to children in the developing world by donating meal swipes in the Heilman Dining Center from Nov. 15-20.

The UR Food Access Coalition is partnering with Dining Services to host the Donate-A-Meal swipe campaign in November, which will fund a meal-packaging event in March of 2018.

The Food Access Coalition is sponsored by the Center for Civic Engagement. The coalition will host the packaging event for Rise Against Hunger, an organization that sends nutritious, dehydrated meals to developing countries.

Swipe donations are limited to one per student, Bettie Clarke, executive director of campus dining and the Heilman Dining Center, said. Students without swipes can donate dining dollars instead, she said. 

Lauren Passero, senior, leader of the Food Access Coalition and a student coordinator for the CCE, said that students would use tickets to donate swipes, and that the tickets would be available in the CCE office and the dining hall. 

After the campaign, Dining Services will donate the equivalent of $1.50 per swipe to the Food Access Coalition until $2,000 is reached, Clarke said. Passero said the event would cost $2,944 to provide supplies for packaging the meals. Event hosts pay for the meal supplies.

Dining Services donates to the first nonprofit organization to ask each year, Clarke said.

“We figure it’s a part of giving back,” she said.

Other ways Dining Services gives back include donating excess samples to food banks and volunteering in them, Clarke said.

 “Our meals cost .29 cents so $1.50 is about five, six meals, so that gives people a meal every day for a week in school," Mike Nelson, 45, community-engagement manager for Rise Against Hunger in central and southeastern Virginia, said.

This is the sixth year that the CCE has hosted this food-packaging event.

The packaging works by assembly line, Adrienne Piazza, associate director of the CCE and student-engagement director, said. Students add rice, vegetables and vitamins then weigh and seal the bags.

“It’s a really tangible, hands-on effort on that day, and it’s always been a student-led event in the planning,” Piazza said.

The packaged meals will go to a Rise Against Hunger warehouse until the organization ships them to a country in need, Nelson said. They will then email the students who participated to let them know where the meals were shipped. 

Once they arrive in the chosen country, Rise Against Hunger passes the meals to a non-governmental organization that knows the political and economic landscape of that country, Nelson said, to distribute them to children in schools. 

This way, the children have an incentive to attend, Nelson said. Rise Against Hunger hopes to fight hunger by creating an educated public that can advocate for policies to minimize hunger, Nelson said.

Packaging events mobilize the community, Mike Duffey, 25, community-engagement coordinator for Rise Against Hunger in central and southeastern Virginia, said.

“It’s about getting the people involved in the fight to end hunger," Duffey said. "It brings a local community together for a common purpose in order to reinforce what we’re trying to do and get more help."

The final third of the funding will come from various sources. The chaplaincy will be donating $500, Passero said. She also plans to set up a fundraiser with the Richmond chapter of Alpha Phi Omicron to design an additional fundraiser, she said.

Other student organizations will also be involved in the fundraiser. 

Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity will be tabling to pass out tickets for the swipe donation campaign and will participate in the packaging event, Ian Gallagher, senior, philanthropy chair of Lambda Chi, said. Feeding America is the fraternity’s national philanthropy.

“It’s such an easy thing to do," Gallagher said. "We all have an hour free. I think it’s cool that something like this really takes such little effort. As long as people just participate, you can make a surprisingly big difference."

Passero said the event impacts Richmond as well as the communities where the food would have been shipped.

“This event is trying to get people to start thinking about hunger,” Passero said. “I think global hunger is our initial thought when we think about hunger. From there, we can kind of reflect on how it impacts the world immediately around us."

Nov. 11-19 is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week. The week provides a connection to the campaign, Piazza said.

Contact news writer Katherine Schulte at katherine.schulte@richmond.edu.

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