Hundreds of Buckeyes volunteer to fight hunger in Ohio
Ohio State and Ohio University team up against food insecurity
More than 550 Buckeyes packed 215,424 meals in a little over two hours Thursday night in a team effort to combat hunger in Ohio.
Students, faculty, staff and alumni of The Ohio State University filled French Field House for a Feed the Funnel party. The parties are the brainchild of the Party Shack, a nonprofit organization that helps to provide healthy meals to local food banks and other nonprofit groups.
As dance music filled the massive athletics complex, hundreds of volunteers at dozens of tables took raw ingredients like rice, dehydrated vegetables and spices and poured them into single-family meal packages. One packet, when mixed with water, offers eight servings of a nutritious meal.
Once the meal was prepared, volunteers sealed and boxed each up as part of a giant humanitarian assembly line working to ease food insecurity in Ohio.
“This is an unbelievable opportunity for us to help people who need help and who don’t have the opportunities that we enjoy,” said Gene Smith, senior vice president and Wolfe Foundation-endowed athletics director.
Smith started the event talking about the challenges he faced as a boy growing up in Cleveland and remembering when there were 100 different ways to make “government cheese” taste good. He reminded the crowd that education offered a path for people to improve their lives but that hunger could be a barrier to learning.
Education on any level gives people an opportunity. But in order to be able to get that good education, in order to make sure you can learn, you have to be fed.
“Education on any level gives people an opportunity. But in order to be able to get that good education, in order to make sure you can learn, you have to be fed,” he said.
The food drive required a university-wide effort to accomplish the mission. The Alumni Association, the Office of Student Life and the Department of Athletics helped bring the crowd to turn out thousands of meals. The event was part of the Columbus Foundation’s Kind Columbus campaign.
Boxes of food were methodically stacked onto pallets for travel, with each pallet’s pile growing through the evening.
The pallets of food were loaded onto the scarlet-and-gray-painted tractor-trailer that is normally used to haul the gear and equipment of the Ohio State football team. Once loaded, the truck drove to Athens, Ohio, on Friday where volunteers from Ohio University unloaded and helped distribute the food to local food banks.
Rich Gill, a graduate of the College of Engineering, joined fellow members of the Ohio State Rugby Club as they weighed and measured the food packs before sealing. He said he was glad to have a night where he could volunteer with fellow Buckeyes.
“I’m just happy to give back in any way I can,” he said.
Alejandra Cervantes, a graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the size of the crowed showed the power of Buckeye Nation.
“I think it’s a good cause. It’s something positive for Ohio State to have a big impact in the community,” she said.
“It says that we care. It says we appreciate what was given to us by the university. It’s a chance to give back to the community in the name of Ohio State. And it tells us that people are kind.”