By Ambriah Underwood
University of Maryland student-led organizations and community members engaged in a collaborative relief effort on March 11 to package meals for those living without food security.
Terps Against Hunger, a student organization fighting hunger in the Washington, D.C., metro area, and this university’s Senior Class Council hosted the four-hour event with about 600 volunteers to prepare meal packages that could feed up to six people each.
“You have to give back to the people less fortunate,” said Hawa Anthony, president of the Senior Council and senior public health science major.
The packaged meals include four key components: rice, soy protein, dehydrated vegetables and 21 different types of vitaminated complexes, said Jonathan Fix, founder of Terps Against Hunger and a 2016 graduate from the Individual Studies program at this university.
These food products are designed to fit any cultural group and avoid distribution problems associated with dietary restrictions like vegetarianism or gluten allergies, Fix said.
Anthony said the partnership offered students the chance to break away from the mundane and “work together to get everything done.”
According to the Capital Area Food Bank, one of Terps Against Hunger’s larger partners, the District had the sixth-highest child food insecurity rate of any state in the country in 2015.
The event’s volunteers are combating this food insecurity “in an effort to make 100,000” meal packages to be sent and distributed by their partners, said Chetveer Aneja, president of Terps Against Hunger.
A goal of the organization is to quantify the impact the group has by gaining more “contact [with] the end user,”Aneja said.
Typically, when Terps Against Hunger allies with other vendors like the Capital Area Food Bank, the vendor gives the packaged meals to smaller food banks who then distribute them to the public, making the act of service seem more indirect, Aneja added.
However, Aneja said the organization would like to partner with more groups “that give directly to the end user” to interrupt the disconnect and improve their capacity to receive feedback.
Fix, who drove from graduate school in North Carolina to be at the event held in Stamp Student Union, agreed with that sentiment.
“Tracking outcomes are hard,” Fix said.
There’s a level of sensitivity required to get people affected by hunger to talk about their stories in order to avoid taking advantage of someone else’s struggle, Fix mentioned.
Still, the strength and support of the volunteer effort in providing food relief have greatly impacted the success of Terps Against Hunger.
“We want to find students that want to do service,” Fix said, citing a diverse volunteer effort as an important part of shaping the future perspective of these events.
Aneja spoke on the importance of the students and local residents who came out to support their mission: “None of this was possible without volunteers.”