University of Wisconsin-Stout senior Krystal Evans scooped rice up with a measuring cup and dropped it into a funnel to fill a bag with six meals in it, all to help feed the hungry.
“I like that I get to help people,” said Evans, a computer networking and information technology major from Oshkosh. “I get to meet other people who are from other majors.”
Evans was one of 160 volunteers who gathered March 6 in the ballrooms of the Memorial Student Center as part of the Spring Into Service Meal Pack-a-thon, the first time a pack-a-thon was held on campus.
About 75 percent of the bags will stay in the Dunn County area at food pantries such as Stepping Stones of Dunn County in Menomonie and Feed My People Food Bank in Eau Claire.
Some of those meals will help feed college students in need. Nationally about 10 percent of college students use food pantries. Thirteen percent of the nation’s population is food insecure, meaning they don’t have consistent access to food. In Wisconsin and Minnesota, about 600,000 people struggle with hunger; of those 200,000 are children.
UW-Stout provided the space and volunteer students, faculty and staff. Two Menomonie Rotary Clubs and a Chippewa Valley After Hours Rotary Club provided event coordination and equipment.
The food — veggies and rice consisting of rice, dehydrated vegetables, soy and flavoring — was paid for by the Mayo Clinic Health Systems, WESTconsin Credit Union and Xcel Energy, according to Rotarian Sue Traxler, UW-Stout’s assistant chancellor for Learning and Information Technology/CIO. The food is designed by a dietitian to provide proper nutrition.
“It brings service opportunities to UW-Stout students and helps us focus on a big need in the community – hunger,” Traxler said.
Volunteers donned red hair nets and packed 25,056 meals in about three hours during three shifts. High energy music played as volunteers tapped their feet to the beat and laughed during the pack-a-thon.
Ashley Brisbin, a senior psychology major from Andover, Minn., volunteered as part of her sorority Sigma Sigma Sigma. “It’s important to give back to our community,” Brisbin said, as she sealed pouches of food. “Helping people is really what it is all about. I’m really enjoying it. Everyone is really focused on a community vision, which is a really beautiful thing.”
Jessi Weber, a senior applied mathematics and computer science major from Middleton, volunteered as part of Sigma Sigma Sigma. “I just love the music,” Weber said. “It’s fun. You know you are helping people right here in Menomonie.”
Chancellor Bob Meyer helped pack filled meal pouches into boxes as part of the pack-a-thon. “This is a terrific event,” Meyer said. “I love we are helping people who are hungry. It doesn’t get any better than that. It’s targeted for local people. It’s pretty cool to see all these students and staff out. I am proud of what they are doing.”
Jessica Jurgella, coordinator of civic engagement and Greek life within the Involvement Center, said she hopes to continue the pack-a-thon each year. The times for volunteers fit into a class period, allowing students to volunteer in between classes. “I am thrilled with the volunteer turnout,” Jurgella said.
Evans, who volunteered as part of her sorority Gamma Sigma Sigma, loved that the pack-a-thon was right on campus. “You don’t have to drive anywhere,” she said, noting she doesn’t enjoy driving particularly in the winter.
UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, with a focus on applied learning, collaboration with business and industry, and career outcomes.
Chancellor Bob Meyer puts filled meal packets into boxes and says he is proud of the volunteers.
Students say packing the meals was a great way to give back to the community right on campus.