Every night, approximately 842 million people around the world go to bed hungry—and a small, dedicated group of University of Richmond students, faculty and staff hope to alleviate that hunger for at least 20,000 this year while also raising awareness on campus.
Since February 2011, Richmond has hosted an annual Stop Hunger Now meal packaging event. According to the university’s website, the first event on Feb. 19, 2011, raised more than $5,000, and packaged more than 20,000 hot meals in less than three hours by 101 volunteers. The event was originally brought to the university by Robert Maddux, a professor in the E. Clairborne Robins School of Business, who had participated in several meal-packaging events before bringing it to Richmond because of “all its student involvement.”
Every year since its induction, the university packages about 12,000 to 20,000 meals.
The meals, which cost only about 25 cents each, consist of vitamin- and mineral-fortified rice and soy blends. They are packaged in easy-open bags with simple instructions: All one has to do is boil the rice blend, stir occasionally and mix in the vitamin seasoning packet. Once packaged, the meals are then shipped out to various organizations that work with Stop Hunger Now to distribute them, according to the organization’s website.
Adrienne Piazza, a project manager for the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement, said about a month after the meals were shipped out, the university would receive an email stating where the meals had been sent. Last year, she said, the meals were shipped to the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Madagascar.
“The hot meals sent abroad encourage families to send their children, especially girls, to school,” Piazza said.
In many underdeveloped countries, parents do not send their children to school because they could be of more use working at home or elsewhere to support the family. Providing free lunches at schools is a huge incentive for parents to support education for their children, which improves their children’s chances of escaping poverty when they are older. The journalist Barbara Demick noted this in her book “Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea,” where food shortages are commonplace and schoolhouses are often barren once they run out of meals for students.
“The reason I love this model of giving was because it’s not a Band-Aid, where we’re just giving meals and nothing comes out of it,” Samantha Van Putten, Westhampton College ‘13, said about last year’s packaging event. “It’s truly promoting education, and hopefully the children will become more educated and that will contribute to decreasing hunger in the long run.”
This year’s Stop Hunger Now meal packaging event will be 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15 in the Alice Haynes Room. The event is currently at capacity for participants, but those interested in participating are still encouraged to contact Brittany Woodruff to be put on a waiting list.
Contact reporter Kelsey Shields at firstname.lastname@example.org