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‘Community & Campus Day of Service’ builds relationships while fighting hunger

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‘Community & Campus Day of Service’ builds relationships while fighting hunger

Volunteers help work the packaging lines for Illini Fighting Hunger. The organization is preparing to package 148,000 meal for Saturday's Community & Campus Day of Service.

Volunteers help work the packaging lines for Illini Fighting Hunger. The organization is preparing to package 148,000 meal for Saturday's Community & Campus Day of Service.

Volunteers help work the packaging lines for Illini Fighting Hunger. The organization is preparing to package 148,000 meal for Saturday's Community & Campus Day of Service.

Volunteers help work the packaging lines for Illini Fighting Hunger. The organization is preparing to package 148,000 meal for Saturday's Community & Campus Day of Service.

By Emily Scott

Packaging 148,000 meals in one day — or one thousand for every year that the University has served the public — is no small task.

But that’s the goal, and it takes a lot of organization, time, money and hard-working volunteers: the key ingredients to this Saturday’s third annual “Community & Campus Day of Service.”

The event, organized by Illini Fighting Hunger in cooperation with the University of Illinois Office of Public Engagement, will take place at Memorial Stadium, with shift times ranging from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Illini Fighting Hunger’s president Max Colon describes the day of service as a “full-circle event.”

Not only will volunteers help package meals to be distributed by the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, but they will also learn more about hunger issues in the Champaign-Urbana area and throughout the nation that will equip them to spread the word.

“We’re not only engaging them in education, but it’s experiential learning as well by having them do food packaging of their own,” Colon said.

Colon said over 2,000 volunteers are lined up to work on Saturday to package fortified rice soy casseroles — made with a chicken-flavored vegetable vitamin powder, a dehydrated vegetable blend, soy protein and long grain white rice that require little preparation and provide six servings each.

According to Sarah Zehr, director of the Office of Public Engagement, the Eastern Illinois Foodbank provides meals for 530,000 individuals annually in Champaign County.

“This would certainly be something that would impact the community by providing meals for people that are in need,” Zehr said.

Spanning 14 counties overall, the Eastern Illinois Food Bank serves an average of 58,000 people monthly through their 220 agencies, according to their website

“The volunteers themselves become better educated and more aware of the hunger issue across the nation and right here in Champaign-Urbana,” Colon said.

He added that most student volunteers usually aren’t aware of the hunger problems that exist in their own community.

“Getting them to realize that the bubble that we live in is not representative of the outside world is the first step,” Colon said. “Then they share that with others.”

Though many students volunteer, the focus is to bring together members of the campus and community in a way not many other events can.

“It builds a sense of community-building among complete strangers,” Colon said. “At the same time, you’re engaging in service work through packaging meals.”

According to Colon, this year’s “Community & Campus Day of Service” is set to be the biggest one yet, breaking records from last year.

Illini Fighting Hunger is an RSO whose student leaders partner with community organizations to increase the frequency of meal packaging events that will impact the immediate community and beyond.

Separately, on April 14, they will celebrate their one-millionth packaged meal, which was packaged on February 28. The landmark achievement will be celebrated by both the group as well as its sponsors with an event at Memorial Stadium.

Like the “Community & Campus Day of Service,” reaching one million meals was no small task, but Colon said they are ready to package their next million.

“We’re gearing up for a very fun event,” he said of Saturday’s event. “It’s people coming together and a great way to meet new people and gain new experiences.”

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