Terps Against Hunger volunteers make about 250,000 meals

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Updated November 2, 2015
 

For eight hours Monday, rice scattered the wooden floor of Stamp Student Union’s Grand Ballroom while pop music blared. At any given time, there were at least 300 hair-netted heads, all bowed over tables crowded with bags and containers.

Between 2,000 and 3,000 University of Maryland students, faculty and community members put together about 250,000 meals — more than double what they made during last year’s inaugural Terps Against Hunger event.

“It’s such a small sacrifice for such a big return,” said Terps Against Hunger Vice President Joshua Turskey, a sophomore architecture major. “And you can physically see it — the meals being packed and sent. It’s such a unique opportunity.”

The meals packaged will be enough to feed 150 families of five for a year, all located in Washington, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County. The food will be handed out by partner organizations such as the Capital Area Food Bank.

“When you look at that number — it’s pretty humbling knowing we did this in eight hours,” said Programs Vice President Caitie Laughlin, a senior public health science major. “One hundred fifty families is a ton of people. Knowing they have children and that this is going to impact their lives has been the most gratifying part of this entire experience.”

Greg Arpino, a senior government and politics major, spent two hours packaging what he estimated at “upwards of 300 meals.”

“It’s a good cause,” Arpino said. “It’s tedious and monotonous, but not difficult at all. You just scoop.”

Terps Against Hunger hosted its first event during last year’s homecoming, drawing 1,500 volunteers who prepared 100,000 meals in three to four hours, Terps Against Hunger President Jonathan Fix said.

The club grow from five to 50 members in the past year, allowing students to form connections with parties on this campus, which helped facilitate the fundraising of $29,000 by the morning of the event through crowdfunding site Launch UMD, Fix said.

READ MORE: Terps Against Hunger raises $29,000 for event despite SGA fund denial

“There’s been a huge amount of buy-in on the school level,” the senior individual studies major said. “There’s such a strong culture of philanthropy and community service that it was clear we could bring this event and it would grow on its own. That’s what we’ve seen.”

University-affiliated organizations, such as Maryland Hillel, Terp Thon, the Residence Hall Association, the public health school, the agriculture and natural resources college, the Department of Fraternity and Sorority Life and the Gemstone and CIVICUS living-learning programs all contributed either money or volunteers to the event — though the Student Government Association declined to provide funding this year.

The SGA’s finance committee’s discretionary guidelines state groups applying for more than $1,500 in funding must meet a budget deadline of 60 days before the event, which Terps Against Hunger missed.

It is also against state law to use state money to fund a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, SGA Finance Vice President Sarah Niezelski said.

Terps Against Hunger also solicited funds from the University View, G&G Outfitters and Terrapin’s Turf among others, as well as crowdfunding by family and friends of the Terps Against Hunger members.

Raising the money “was so stressful and crazy,” Laughlin said.. “We went up and down Route 1 for weeks trying to raise money and get sponsors. We emailed everyone asking for donations. Trying to get the amount of volunteers to come took a lot of planning, too.”

Most volunteers stayed for an hour, Fix said, though many stayed longer.

“You tell yourself you’re coming for an hour and you get caught up in it,” Fix said. “You end up staying for longer. Unless you’ve done it before, you don’t really know what you’re getting yourself into, but once you get here, it’s a lot of fun.”

READ MORE: Students pack 10,000 meals for hungry Baltimore children

While many volunteers were students, there were also 300 university employees present, along with firefighters, policemen and city residents, among others.

“Part of what we wanted to do was bring together a diverse volunteer base and allow them to work together,” Fix said. “We had some many people come out from so many different groups. It was really nice to see them build a relationship with students.”

The club hopes to establish the event’s permanence as homecoming week’s official community service event, Fix said.

“I’m imagining from the way today went — crossing my fingers — we will be indefinitely extended for the foreseeable future,” Fix said.

Terps Against Hunger is also looking to solicit funding more strategically, asking for donations earlier in the year so as to have a better chance of obtaining them.

“Our event’s in the last quarter of the year, so most groups have already allocated a significant amount of their finances,” Fix said. “Moving forward, all our funding is going to be locked down in January-February. I’m optimistic for the future.”