Dillard University Freshmen Pitch In to Fight Hunger - Higher Education
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Dillard University Freshmen Pitch In to Fight Hunger

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by Dianne Hayes

Dillard University’s Class of 2017 sealed their freshman bond by starting the year off with a community service project that included packaging 10,140 meals for those in need in just two hours. Many hands make the workload light, and students did their part to assist in feeding children worldwide through Stop Hunger Now, an international hunger relief agency.

The students packaged meals in an assembly line process, which combines rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a flavoring mix including 21 vitamins and minerals into small meal packages. They are shipped around the world to support school feeding programs and crisis relief. The food has a shelf-life of two years.

Being able to reach out to others is personal for Nathan Gros, a freshman music major at Dillard. The New Orleans native has been on the receiving end of accepting the kindness of others after losing his home during Hurricane Katrina. Though he and his family fled the city to Texas before the storm, their New Orleans East neighborhood was under 8 feet of water.

“Katrina is one of the causes of a fatal event in my family,” Gros said. “My father died after Katrina. I can appreciate what it means to help someone. Helping to eradicate hunger worldwide is an important cause.”

In a city known for its cuisine, before the packaging process began, students heard a presentation about the needs in the U.S. and throughout the world and were given statistics to gain a greater appreciation for their efforts.

“You hear about hunger a lot on TV, but you never really understand the severity until you are right there preparing the food,” Gros said. “Anybody who knows me knows that I have a passion for community service. I’m honored to be a part of it.”

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Students partnered with Stop Hunger Now to learn about the impact of world hunger. For half a day, resident advisers and orientation leaders guided the students, who were donned with hairnets and gloves. Stop the Hunger Now’s headquarters are based in Raleigh, N.C.

As-Samad Robison, a sophomore from Oakland, Calif., and a business administration major, served as a leader to support the freshman project. During his freshman year, his incoming class focused on clean-up projects.

“I felt it was educational,” Robison said. “It’s hard for students to have an opportunity to help out in the community. This was a chance to be active and more aware of what’s going on in the world.”

“It showed that sometimes people don’t know how good they have it. In college, you wouldn’t think about eating this small amount of food. For some people, this will be their full meal, where everybody is in the same situation.”

Students worked in stations, where students measured and filled bags with rice. Other stations weighed and sealed it, while other stations added the dried vegetables and other ingredients, then sealed the boxes.

Carretta Cooke, director of the Center for Career and Professional Development, said that this is the first time Dillard students partnered with the nonprofit agency.

“We hope that by participating in this event, our students will have a better understanding about hunger and how a brief time of service can affect people on a global scale,” Cooke said. “This is important for our students because they get to view the world through a global lens of inclusion and are educated about hunger and its impact.”

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As part of Dillard’s graduation requirements, students must complete a minimum of 120 hours of community service. Last year, the Class of 2013 completed more than 36,000 hours of volunteer service.

In Raleigh, N.C., freshmen at Saint Augustine’s University volunteered their time to prepare more than 10,000 meals for the Stop Hunger Now program.

“I feel honored to be here to help others,” said Akilah Jones, a junior from New Carrollton, Md. “This community service project means a lot. Giving back is the best feeling ever.”

Since 1998, Stop Hunger Now has been distributing food and other lifesaving aid to children and families in countries throughout the world. It began its meal packaging program in 2005.

Stop Hunger Now works with international partners that ship and distribute the meals in various countries. Its packaging operation is mobile and goes where volunteers are located, and it can be adapted to accommodate as few as 25 and as many as 500 volunteers at a time.

The nonprofit provides more than 70 percent of its meals to support transformational development programs such as school feeding programs, vocational training programs, early childhood development programs, orphanages and medical clinics.

Every year Stop Hunger Now reserves 10 percent of its projected meals to respond right away to crisis situations including natural disasters, conflict and famine. In addition to providing food for crisis relief, Stop Hunger Now also works to meet the immediate needs of those suffering from hunger.

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