One in four children in the United States are hungry. One in five families do not have food to eat every night.
These were some of the statistics that Shane Scarlett, director of the Million Meal Movement, told students. On Monday, the organization from Indianapolis partnered with the Helene G. Simon Hillel Center to package 6,000 meals for the Texas and Florida hurricane relief.
While groups of about 40 students worked at a time, more than 200 students in total signed up to volunteer, said Rabbi Sue Silberberg, executive director of the Hillel center.
Silberberg said the event was purposely planned to take place on the anniversary of 9/11.
“We want to show humanity in spite of evil,” she said. “It’s actually because of the evil in the world that we have more responsibility to do good.”
Although the food was originally going to be distributed to Hoosiers in need, the two organizations decided that the hurricane victims took precedence.
“I want to feed the Hoosiers, but the people in Florida and Texas need our help,” Scarlett said.
Scarlett told the students that the food they are packaging will most likely be shipped to victims of hurricane destruction in Florida first, as they are the most in need at the moment. The Million Meals Movement is working with the Salvation Army and plans to donate the majority of their food to them, he said.
Silberberg said Hillel contacted the Million Meals Movement to hold the event because showing mercy to those in need is one of the most important values of Judaism.
“Jewish people have experienced tragedy and hardship for a very long time,” she said. “But, we have been taught to rise above the injustice and push forward.”
Students formed assembly lines to create and box packages of casserole mix. Each package, which holds about six servings of food, contained a mix of rice, soy, vegetables and vitamin powder.
“It’s a good alternative to some of the junk food served at food pantries, which have little nutritional value,” Scarlett said.
Scarlett floated around the room, helping package meals and answering questions from the students.
Senior Courtney Pos had volunteered with the Million Meals Movement in the past and said she wanted to help again.
“It’s a lot of fun to bring friends with and hang out, and be able to help people in need at the same time,” she said.
Pos, along with several of the other student volunteers, heard of the event through the Greek Jewish Council through Hillel. The council plans volunteer and social events to create bonds between the Jewish community and greek life at IU.
“I came here today because there’s so many people who don’t have the opportunities that we have here at IU, so to help them is really important,” Pos said.
In addition to the event on Monday, the Million Meals Movement is holding their annual Million Meal Marathon in October, where volunteers will try to package one million meals for those in need.
Scarlett said that many college students, including some from IU, are traveling to Indianapolis to participate in this event.
“It’s amazing what we can do when we all come together,” Scarlett said.
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