It's your first weekend of college. You're away from your parents, the homework has yet to set in, and you are totally free. What would you do?
Well, if you are a freshman attending NC State University in Raleigh, North Carolina you are most likely participating in the 'Million Meals Packaging Event'. For the second year in a row, NC State has headed up the food-packaging event with non-profit organization Stop Hunger Now.
Stop Hunger Now, based in Raleigh, began in 1998 as a non-profit hunger-relief agency aimed at coordinating the distribution of food and other life-saving aid around the world. In 2005 the organization created its meal-packaging program, Operation Sharehouse. The program gives volunteers the opportunity to participate in the assembly process that combines rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and flavoring mix including 21 essential vitamins and minerals into small meal packets. Each meal costs only $0.25, is easily transported around the world, and has a shelf life of five years.
Since 2006, NC State had been working with Stop Hunger Now, packaging 150,000 meals the first year, then 300,000 the next. They realized that if they wanted to make a bigger impact they would have to package more meals and get more colleges and universities across the state involved. And with that the Million Meals Food Packaging event was born. In 2008, 1,010,374 meals were packaged in one day and this year they broke that record by packaging 1,031,766 meals on two consecutive Saturdays. To make this event possible they needed more than 4,500 volunteers across the state at 4 different packaging locations. When asked if they ever had problems getting volunteers, Mike Giancola, the Director of the Center for Student Leadership, Ethics & Public Service at NC State said: "No, in fact we have to turn away hundreds of volunteers each year, but we will continue to expand the event to allow more volunteers to participate".
The meals that were packaged at this year's event will go to some of the world's most impoverished areas of Haiti, Kenya and Nicaragua where the meals will make a huge impact on the lives of the school children for years to come.