CALS packages 26,000 meals for Rise Against Hunger

Student volunteers weigh each bagged meal on a scale to insure it's within an acceptable range.
Student volunteers weigh each bagged meal on a scale to insure it's within an acceptable range. (Photo by Megan V. Winslow)

It’s that time of the year when we begin reflecting on what to be thankful for, whether it’s friends, family, a warm bed, or a meal at the end of the day.  

Thanksgiving reminds us to be grateful for what we have because others might not be as lucky and members of UF understand this, which is why every year they decide to give back to those in need.  

During its 10th annual Day of Service on Friday, the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) rallied over 150 students, faculty, staff, and alumni to package 26,000 meals in partnership with Rise Against Hunger.  

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Katy Deitz, a student pursuing a masters degree in Forestry, collects sealed bags.
Photo by Megan V. Winslow Katy Deitz, a student pursuing a masters degree in Forestry, collects sealed bags.

“We put together a food packaging day for students to come in and focus on one of the four core values of the college, which is service,” said Charlotte Emerson, Director of Student Development and Recruitment for CALS, in an interview. “We believe it is essential to plant a seed with our students in helping them understand the importance of philanthropy, service, and giving back to others.  

Rise Against Hunger provides the equipment and food supplies for the event. It costs 39 cents per meal to package, and UF does its own fundraising throughout the year, relying on donors, students, and alumni of CALS. 

The day was split into two different shifts. The first shift was from 9:30-11:30 a.m. to complete 12,600 meals. Shift two was from noon-2 p.m. when volunteers finished the second half of the prepping.  

The packaging process began with filling the bags — six meals per bag consisting of protein, rice, dehydrated vegetables, a flavor pack, and instructions. Once the meals were prepared and sealed, volunteers placed the bags into boxes for shipping.  

The bags can go anywhere in the world. In the past, meals have been sent to Vietnam and Houston, Texas during the flood.  

UF freshman Brett Capra, an animal science major, dumps dried soy into a bin for another volunteer.
Photo by Megan V. Winslow UF freshman Brett Capra, an animal science major, dumps dried soy into a bin for another volunteer.

“The impact is locally based on the food we collect, but it is also global in the fact that we can send meals anywhere and help any person/family that needs it,” Emerson said. 

Every dime raised goes toward the meals, meaning the university does not receive a profit. If the goal of $8,000 in donations is not met, then UF will use money from another fund to supplement the cost.  

A critical part of the success of Friday’s event came from the volunteers. The room was filled with laughter, music, and lighthearted conversation. 

First-time volunteer, Megan Edge, couldn’t help but get involved after hearing about the day. She didn’t have to think twice before volunteering two hours of her time.  

“I wanted to be able to make a difference and help provide food to people who genuinely need it,” said Edge, a sophomore CALS Ambassador, in an interview. “This event shows that CALS really cares for others, and they want to use their resources to help people who might not have the same opportunities as we do.” 

An overview of the room, student volunteers weigh each bagged meal on a scale to insure it's within an acceptable range.
Photo by Megan V. Winslow An overview of the room, student volunteers weigh each bagged meal on a scale to insure it’s within an acceptable range.
Clay Hurdle, a graduate student studying agricultural education and communications, pours dried soy into a bin.
Photo by Megan V. Winslow Clay Hurdle, a graduate student studying agricultural education and communications, pours dried soy into a bin.
Each bagged meal contains rice and dehydrated vegetables, pictured, as well as soy and nutritional supplements.
Photo by Megan V. Winslow Each bagged meal contains rice and dehydrated vegetables, pictured, as well as soy and nutritional supplements.
Rise Against Hunger partnership manager David Cook briefs volunteers about the process before their session begins.
Photo by Megan V. Winslow Rise Against Hunger partnership manager David Cook briefs volunteers about the process before their session begins. As his shirt states, rice is the last nutritional component added to each bagged meal.
UF Biology major Alexis Dvorak, center, steadies a bag beneath a funnel so fellow volunteers can add rice, dried soy, dehydrated vegetables and a nutritional supplement packet to it.
Photo by Megan V. Winslow UF Biology major Alexis Dvorak, center, steadies a bag beneath a funnel so fellow volunteers can add rice, dried soy, dehydrated vegetables and a nutritional supplement packet to it.
Isabella Mahboob, a zoology major, delivers a container of bags requiring weighing, sealing and labeling.
Photo by Megan V. Winslow Isabella Mahboob, a zoology major, delivers a container of bags requiring weighing, sealing and labeling.

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