Hundreds of first-year Washburn students will gather on campus Saturday to package meals for Topekans facing food insecurity and hunger.
The WU 101 Day of Service begins at 9 a.m. in the Washburn Room, on the main level of the Memorial Union on the Washburn campus. Each student will spend two hours working with the meal packing project, with the ultimate goal of packaging 50,000 meals by 4 p.m.
Community members who work with a variety of organizations that address food insecurity in Topeka will speak to students about hunger where they live. Then the students will join one of 20 six-person assembly lines. The lines are set up to package a dehydrated meal mix provided by Outreach, Inc. After an hour of filling meal mix bags, the students will discuss what they’ve done and how to continue their service to Topeka and beyond.
“The most important part of this event is the pre- and post-reflection educational component, with the ultimate goal of creating community-minded citizens,” said Rick Ellis, professor and director of Washburn’s Center for Community and Civic Engagement, also known as Learning in the Community or LinC.
Getting students engaged early in their college careers, Ellis said, will enable them to continue to serve throughout their time at Washburn and their post-college lives.
Micaela Sands, a sophomore social work major from Ozawkie, Kan., is an intern with Learning in the Community. She said the event will show students, particularly those from small communities, that they can have a positive impact.
Sands arranged the event’s speakers and researched food insecurity and hunger in Topeka to prepare materials for the students. She will lead reflection after the food packaging event.
“I think it will open a lot of kids’ eyes to see that this is happening in our community,” she said. “It doesn’t just happen in the big cities. Hunger is everywhere.”
Washburn students will work assembly lines with stations for adding rice, pinto beans, soy flour, dried vegetables and a vitamin and seasoning packet into bags, sealed on site at the final stage. Each bag of meal mix needs only hot water to prepare and provides six servings of a 220 calorie meal with 20 different vitamins and minerals.
Angelique Flinn, a senior biology and human services major from Topeka, also will lead a student reflection at the end of the experience. While she recognized some students may not appreciate that the service activity is required, she said most will get a good feeling from the effort.
“When you get there, you forget it’s required,” she said. “You want to be there and you want to help.”
Flinn organized a similar meal packaging activity at the Kansas Expocentre two years ago. That food was sent to families in Somalia.
“I think there’s definitely more to it than packaging food,” Flinn said. “It really touches you.”
WU 101, the Washburn Experience, is a course designed to help new students transition to college. This is the first year the course has been required.
Outreach, Inc. was started by an Iowa couple and delivers food to hungry children in 15 countries. In July, Outreach, Inc. received President George Bush’s 5,000th “Daily Points of Light” award. It was bestowed in a White House ceremony by Presidents Bush and Barack Obama. Outreach, Inc. is recognized by Charity Navigator as a four-star charity, a rating related to management and the proportion of contributions that go directly to the cause.