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Ohio State students and staff pack thousands of meals to aid community

Annual food packing event continues following COVID protocols

Students and staff from The Ohio State University are working together to continue a massive effort to fight food insecurity in Ohio.

This year, the planning and production of the initiative to assemble, pack and distribute meals changed because of COVID-19 restrictions, but the mission to feed the hungry remained the same.

“When researching food insecurity numbers in our state, we felt more compelled to figure out a way to do this project,” said Tracy Stuck, who facilitates community partnerships in the Office of Student Life. “In giving context to the students on this project, we spoke about how it related to our land-grant mission and hope they learn to take this concept with them as leaders no matter where they end up in the world.”

This month, the Office of Student Life and Kind Columbus worked with the Kids Around the World organization to create a creative, pandemic-safe, food packing event called “Pack at Your House.” It will result in the delivery of more than 120,000 meals to some of the most under-resourced areas of Ohio. 

“All of the food bags are going to… the Appalachian area in southern Ohio,” said Amun Mehta, vice president of programing for Sigma Phi Epsilon. “All the food that we package today is going to be donated to those that might not have the access or accessibility to food right now.”

Ordinarily, hundreds of volunteers would fill French Field House to pack ingredients into meal packages before they are shipped out and delivered. This year, there are still scores of supporters, but they are spread out in groups of 10 or fewer across fraternity and sorority homes or university buildings on campus. The project is funded through a grant from Kind Columbus at the Columbus Foundation. 

“I’ve been putting red lentils, rice and a scoop of dried vegetables into each bag … then I’ll hand it off to the next person who is sealing the bags, and then the next person will be putting on labels so they know how long the food is good for,” said Ava Eilola, a second-year nursing student. “I wanted to do it because I know food insecurity is so high right now, especially because the pandemic is still happening. I just wanted to give back to the community.”

The food will be delivered on March 24 via the official Ohio State Football equipment truck owned by Ken Blair. Student Life team members will be joined by staff with OSU Extension to deliver the assembled meals to nonprofit organizations in Scioto, Pike and Jackson counties.

“Although it’s not maybe at the same scale as in previous years, I think that the impact is just going to be as great,” Mehta said.

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