About 50 students and community members packaged 10,000 meals to send to Stop Hunger Now, an international hunger relief organization, Saturday at Pace Center for Campus and Community.
Pace Center is sponsored by the Virginia Annual Conference United Methodist Church, said Rev. James “JD” Daniely.
“Last October we talked about having a hands-on mission activity where students at VCU could get involved (in) meeting a need in world hunger,” Daniely said. “In January the earthquake occurred in Haiti, and so at that point we decided we would try to dream a little larger and try to get the other student organizations on campus involved in a Haitian relief effort.”
Daniely said the Pace Center volunteers and student participants hoped to have 143,000 meals packaged so they could designate specifically where the meals would be shipped. However, they had to leave the decision up to the region director.
The region director will decide where the greatest need is and subsequently where the food will be shipped, which might not be Haiti because of ongoing events. For example, the 8.8 earthquake in Chile on Saturday might designate a greater need and, consequently, require food to be shipped there.
However, Daniely said there might be a loophole. The United Methodist church started packaging meals in January for Haiti and has over 700,000 meals ready to be shipped out. The Pace Center hoped to have the 10,000 meals shipped along with those of the United Methodist.
In addition to planning the meals’ destination, the Pace Center had to gather participants and raise funds for the meals, which are 25 cents per meal.
“We were anticipating just a few students showing up, but we’ve had an outpouring of students at VCU and we’re very pleased about that,” Daniely said.
Dominic Alexander, the program coordinator for the Richmond branch of Stop Hunger Now said the packaged meals will be shipped to school feeding programs around the world and about 5 percent of the meals go to disaster relief areas. Alexander said he was uncertain of where the meals packaged by Pace Center would be shipped, but he should be informed within one month to six weeks. Alexander said all of the efforts are international.
“It’s not that we don’t have hungry folks in America but for the most part here in America we have an infrastructure to support our hungry,” Alexander said. “Some of the countries that this food we send out goes into, they have absolutely zero infrastructure and some of the kids that are eating these meals, those are the only meals they’re eating a day.”
The meals consist of long grain rice, textured soy protein, a dehydrated vegetable mix and a fortified vitamin powder. The meals are vegetarian and rice-based because the food is often sent to countries with specific diets.
“Where (ever) they go, they can alter it accordingly,” Alexander said. “They can add curry powder in South Asia or in Central America they add red bean sauce or red beans and rice.”
Participants worked fast Saturday, packaging food at four separate stations.
Diana Ness, a senior forensics science major and president of Students @ Pace Campus Ministry, was one of the original organizers for the event. She said she has been attending the Pace Center since her freshman year and this is the first year students have participated in the Stop Hunger Now program. The student group has about 20 members.
“We saw it as a really great program,” Ness said. “It is a lofty goal to stop hunger, but if we all do our part, raise the money and package the food, it’s a really great cause.”