More than 70 volunteers, including University of Richmond students, staff and local community members, came together March 3 to package 10,000 meals for Rise Against Hunger.

The money to host the event came primarily from the November Donate-A-Meal swipe campaign, hosted by the UR Food Access Coalition (FAC).

For two hours, volunteers measured rice, dried vegetables and soy into clear plastic bags, which also contained a vitamin packet. The meals were formulated specifically to battle malnutrition. Once everything had been measured, the bags were sealed, labeled and put in a cardboard box, with each box holding 216 meals.

“All these meals are gonna go to a school feeding program,” Tony Cornicello, a community engagement coordinator for Rise Against Hunger, said. “And it’s gonna give a child in that country that we’re serving, it’s gonna give that student a breakfast and a lunch.”

Knowing that the schools can provide food for their children gives parents an incentive to send their children to school, and the fundamentals that the kids learn, such as reading and writing, can triple or quadruple the child’s future salary, Cornicello said.

Although the goal of the event is to package meals for children in need, Rise Against Hunger works to ensure that it is a fun and inviting event. Music plays through speakers, and for every 1,000 meals packaged a gong is rung.

This is the sixth year that UR and Rise Against Hunger have partnered for the event, and the second year that Lauren Passero, senior, organized it. Passero has worked as a student coordinator for the Center for Civic Engagement since her freshman year, and took over as leader of the FAC last spring.

Passero said planning the packaging event began in August, because they had to reach out to Rise Against Hunger, set a date for the event and reserve a room in advance. The FAC then spent about a month coordinating the Donate-A-Meal Swipe campaign with dining services, before turning their focus to fundraising. By January, promotion for the event was in swing, and recruitment of volunteers began.

Rhonda Parson, who works in the UR Advancement Office, volunteered at the event for the fourth year in a row, along with several of her family members and friends.

“I enjoy doing this, but I love seeing the students that really, like, get together, and you can see the camaraderie that they have,” Parson said. “I think it’s a wonderful partnership that we have.”

There were seven meal packaging events taking place in the region between March 3 and March 4, with over 100,000 meals packaged throughout the two days, Cornicello said. 

Contact contributor Chloe Simpson at chloe.simpson@richmond.edu.