UK students pack 100,000 meals for Haiti on first day of classes

Contributing writerAugust 29, 2013 

  • TO CONTRIBUTE

    If you would like to contribute to the UK Christian Student Fellowship Meals for Haiti project, you can still donate via ukcsf.org/outreach.

One hundred thousand meals, $20,000, and 600 students — and no, we're not talking about stats from Ovid's Café at the University of Kentucky during the first week of classes, known as K-week.

Those numbers represent the resources and results of one of the Christian Student Fellowship's most daring activities to date for K-week: packing 100,000 meals for Haiti.

This isn't the first time that the group has put up seemingly impossible numbers. Each year, CSF sponsors a water balloon fight on the Johnson Center fields seeking to break the Guinness world record every year, and it will sponsor the event again on Friday.

But this year, CSF executive director Brian Marshall said, the group wanted to "do something bigger that wasn't just for us." The idea for doing a service project during K-week came during an annual retreat that Marshall and his staff take in Gatlinburg.

"We're sitting in the basement of this chalet, brainstorming ideas, and someone came up with the idea to do something that would not only attract students but also benefit people outside our walls," he said.

Lifeline Christian Mission partnered with CSF to pack the meals. Lifeline collects the food and supplies, ships it to a packing site, then ships it to Haiti. Once in Haiti, the meals are distributed to various organizations that Lifeline partners with, and through Lifeline's Haitian mission center in Grand Goave.

Matt Collins, Lifeline's program director, was at UK on Wednesday to watch the packing happen. He said the meal distribution can get complicated in Haiti. "One thing we have to be constantly aware of is people taking the meals to sell instead of eat," he said. Each meal contains soy, rice and dehydrated vegetables. One meal contains about 250 calories worth of nutrition.

The total cost for CSF to pack 100,000 meals is roughly $20,000 — a fundraising goal that as of Wednesday night the organization had not met.

Kat Towles, the staffer managing the endeavor, said, "CSF has always had a strong connection to Haiti. Lots of our students have gone there on mission trips." Towles also said that a similar project had been done at Southland Christian Church, where many CSF regulars have ties, in 2011 — also in conjunction with Lifeline.

Liz Johnson, a junior at UK, has participated in both. She came Wednesday night to volunteer. "I've been to Haiti twice, so any time I hear anything about helping Haiti, it tugs on my heart and I have to go," Johnson said.

Another Haiti veteran, senior Devin Baier, could not make it to the event but said she thinks it's a great idea. "One thing we did in Haiti when I went was hand out peanut butter sandwiches to people on the outer islands," she said. "The kids were obviously at the extreme edge of hunger. They kept ripping the sandwiches out of our hands."

Kentucky men's basketball Coach John Calipari has helped raise awareness for Haiti on UK's campus in recent years. In 2010, his "Hoops for Haiti" event raised more than $1 million for earthquake relief. Calipari couldn't come to the meal-packing event, but he posted Tuesday night on Twitter, "100,000 meals for Haiti from the #BBN first night of classes! @UKCSF leading the charge," to help raise awareness for the project.

UK athletics were represented at the event, most prominently by Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart, who dropped by to show his support.

"I want to be absolutely supportive of students on this campus and encourage them to be a part of something bigger than themselves," Barnhart said. "I think this generation is better at that than when I was in college."

Barnhart also said the event provided a chance for new students to be plugged into "things that will build their futures. ... People will always get plugged into something, whether it's really really good or really really not good. These types of events create community and friendship, and that's what we're all about. They just do it in a really cool Christian atmosphere that celebrates the God that we serve."

Junior Stephanie Sherman, who was packing meals, said, "We promoted the event on Facebook and Twitter and had an amazing response of those who wanted to come out and help."

The response was so great, they had to turn people away because of space constraints. Sherman also said that many students signed up to pack meals at other community-building events that CSF held earlier in the week, including a free pancake night.

That's where freshman Jordan Tingle heard about the event.

"I was eating pancakes with friends and they encouraged me to go," he said. "I've had a fortunate life so far, and this was a cool opportunity to give back."


To contribute

If you would like to contribute to the UK Christian Student Fellowship Meals for Haiti project, you can donate via UKCSF.org/outreach.

Molly K. Phillips is a freelance writer. She can be reached at mkphillips802@gmail.com or on Twitter @mollykphillips.

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