The Collegian
Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Food Access Coalition to package meals this Saturday

More than 100 volunteers at the Food Access Coalition will prepare 12,300 meals this Saturday to send to communities in need at its fourth annual meal-packaging event.

The Food Access Coalition, a leadership team consisting of students, faculty and staff, has been working in collaboration with the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement and the Stop Hunger Now organization to distribute food to families around the world.

The effort represents the CCE’s goal of increasing student awareness of international poverty and extending the domestic focus with events such as the Poverty Simulation or Brown Bag Discussions. “Any of these programs are for awareness-building for issues outside of our campus. This one happens to go international,” program director Adrienne Piazza said.

The Stop Hunger Now organization will give a presentation about hunger in the world before the event begins, focusing in particular on possible destinations for the meals. The presentation shows both images and statistics about global hunger, which can be accessed at its website. Piazza said she had thought the volunteer aspect was the more enriching portion of the day.

“As you’re packaging, [the program] lends itself to talking with your friends or student organization or strangers about hunger in the world. You can talk or think about what impacts you can have or where you think the food is going to go,” Piazza said.

Junior Jordan Nguyen agreed with Piazza and called Saturday a “fast-paced, fun volunteer experience." 

While the students do not find out where the food is sent until weeks after the event, the Stop Hunger Now organization seems to focus on areas where education becomes a byproduct of packaged meals. “When children get hot meals at schools, parents are encouraged to send their kids to school,” Piazza said. “They get food and learning.”

Last year’s partnership with LeSEA Global, for example, sent meal packages to Nairobi, Kenya. Nairobi contains some of the world’s largest urban slums, filled with a high number of orphanages and undersupplied schools because of the AIDS epidemic. Children are often raised by distant or struggling family members.

Junior Bria Munnings contrasted the event to the Coalition’s Fall Hunger Banquet, and said the meal packaging was a way of acting on the lessons learned. Munnings, who is involved in Saturday’s preparations, called the meal packaging “an opportunity to take action by packaging meals for those who need them.”

Although Piazza said the student leaders were content with the volunteer numbers, Nguyen, another member of the leadership team, mentioned the team wished they could have had more fundraisers.

“The biggest hindrance is funding," Piazza said. "We need to raise a dollar for every four meals.” The first Stop Hunger Now event raised enough funds to package over 20,000 meals, compared to this year’s 12,300.

The Coalition will begin fundraising for next year’s meal packaging immediately after Saturday’s event. Efforts are primarily centered on donations through meal swipes at Heilman Dining Center, but Piazza said a portion came from donations generated through tabling and from the friends and families of the volunteers.

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The event will be 2-4 p.m. this Saturday, Feb. 21 in the Alice Haynes Room. To donate or volunteer, visit the Food Access Coalition Page at the University of Richmond website.

Contact reporter Janus Cataluna-Palma at janus.catalunapalma@richmond.edu

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