The University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Student Organization of Social Workers is tackling the issue of hunger and food insecurity in a very tangible way this month by hosting a local “pack out” event, and the organization is encouraging the community to join them in the effort. Campus and community members, and members of student organizations, youth groups and faith-based organizations are invited to join in for SOSW’s “Pack Out to End Hunger” event on Friday, Oct. 14, from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Campus Center’s Multi-Purpose Room.
Shirley Rush, adviser for the Student Organization of Social Workers, explained that hunger and food insecurity continue to plague citizens in Maine. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (USDA), Maine ranks 9th in the nation and 1st in New England for food insecurity. One in four children in Maine are food insecure. The USDA defines food insecurity as the condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.
“As a way of supporting our local community, SOSW is partnering with The Outreach Program to package 10,000 free, nutritious meals that will be donated to families and agencies in Aroostook County,” Rush said. “Please help us to help others.”
The idea for this project developed after Rush and her students participated in the Maine Hunger Dialogue, an event that provides students with “the inspiration, expertise and resources needed for student teams at Maine’s higher education institutions to create and implement hunger-related projects,” according to the Maine Campus Compact’s website. The Hunger Dialogue is co-sponsored by the Compact and University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Rush has taken students to the event for the past three years. Each year, she explained, “they have a food pack out event and the students have so much fun with that.”
Last year, the UMPI delegation submitted an application for a small grant to Hunger Dialogue organizers to complete a hunger-alleviation project. Their hope?—to do a food pack out of their own in Aroostook County. With the grant funding supplemented by SOSW club funds, they were able to purchase enough food and supplies to be able to pack out 10,000 meals.
Rush said the group is hoping to have at least 60 volunteers help them out with their pack out on Oct. 14. They plan to take the boxes of meals they pack and distribute them to groups like Catholic Charities and Friends Helping Friends in the region.
For more information and to register as a volunteer, please contact Rush by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Volunteer shifts are available Thursday afternoon and Friday afternoon.
For more information, about The Outreach Program, visit its website at http://outreachprogram.org.
A postscript: More than 50 volunteers helped SOSW pack 10,000 nutritious meals for people in need in Aroostook County and 46 boxes of nonperishable meals were distributed throughout the County with the assistance of the United Way to 29 local food pantries. Said Rush of the pack out: “We had a great array of volunteers who contributed to the success of our event. Thank you to all who supported our SOSW effort.”