What started in Raleigh more than 13 years ago and moved across the globe has returned once again to its North Carolina roots. Stop Hunger Now, an international relief organization, made its annual visit to Elon University in partnership with the Kernodle Center for Service Learning to package 55,000 meals for children and their families.
Nearly 150 student and alumni volunteers came to East Gym Oct. 20 to package meals for shipment, likely to a developing country.
The event’s co-coordinator sophomore Samantha Murray said the event is about more than providing thousands of starving people with sustenance.
“We try to incorporate reflection into all of our service events,” she said. “The Kernodle center is not biased, religiously or in any other way, but we still want people to be able to think about that they’re doing and what it means to them specifically. For a short, one time event, it’s still good to think about why you’re doing it.”
Volunteers are encouraged to sign a banner, declaring why they care about hunger. For the first time, they were also able to write their feelings on a white board, which they were photographed with for a slideshow.
For many students, reflecting on hunger issues is what drew them to the event.
Senior Lauren Hoerr visited Washington D.C. for an alternative spring break trip last March, where she learned about hunger and homelessness in the nation’s capitol. The experience encouraged her to become involved with Stop Hunger Now.
“It opened my eyes to hunger issues in our country and world wide,” she said. “A person’s creativity and imagination can really blossom when hunger isn’t their biggest worry, and it just creates a world where better solutions are created.”
Some students were returning to East Gym after previous years working with Stop Hunger Now.
“I thought it would be really important to get a few service hours in and give back to the community somehow,” junior Julia Okata said. “I became interested in hunger in high school, so when I heard about this as a freshman I decided to come out. I’ve done it all three times.”
Senior Lindsay Swenson is also a veteran volunteer. As the coordinator of Campus Kitchen at Elon, she has worked with Stop Hunger Now since her freshman year, and thinks many of her peers do the same because of the university’s mentality.
“I think our service learning presence at Elon is huge, it’s a part of our cultural and it’s an integral part of everyone’s personality to help out other people,” she said.
But it’s not just at a volunteer event that students can make a difference. According to Swenson, fighting hunger is something anyone can do on a daily basis.
“There’s little things you can do, it’s not a huge issue,” she said. “If everyone pitches in, we can tackle it. Maybe you can go work at loaves and fishes. You have a food budget, you can add an extra few bucks to pick up some cans of soup. We need the donations, other people need the donations. Everybody pitching in that little bit really helps.”