Rise Against Hunger: Volunteers pack 11,000 meals in one hour

Success came smoother than expected at the Rise Against Hunger food-packaging event at Yanity Gym last Saturday morning.

Four high school interns with the Jesse Lee United Methodist Church youth ministry — Jackson Cashman, Cassie Pavain, Eric Dollins, and Kendra Gordillo — organized the event that aimed to package 10,000 meals in under two hours.

The goal was met in half the time thanks to a strong turnout from community volunteers of all ages, who gathered in gloves and hairnets just before the opening bell rung at 10:30.

By 10:42, the first thousand meals had been completed; at 11:10, the room was halfway to the goal with 5,000 meals packaged.

Less than 20 minutes later, 6,000 more meals had been packaged, bringing the grand total to 11,000 in an hour.

For the four students, who met twice before their internships started in May to plan the event, the results showed that preparation pays off.

“We’ve been thinking about this for a while,” Pavain said.

The inspiration for the event came from a youth summit that Cashman and Gordillo had attended in Florida.

“It’s a gathering of youth that happens every four years, and they did a food-packaging event as an activity for everyone,” Gordillo said. “The theme of that event was ‘Go on,’ and this was something that we felt was a way to continue that mission of ‘Going on’ and helping people in need.”

Each bag of food packaged can be held in one hand and feed six people when added to water, making each bag’s direct impact more tangible.

“It’s good for all of us to come together as a community and give back to the world this way. We went around to local businesses, and we got them to sponsor this. We got local volunteers to come and actually do the event,” Cashman said.

“We are so thankful for the generosity of businesses and other people who want to support not only volunteer projects, but youth-led projects,” Gordillo added. “A lot of times, kids get looked down upon, or might not always be expected to run big events, but we just put on a big event, the four of us. I think being able to see that there are youth that can do good things in the community is also really important.”