UNION, NJ — Enthusiastic local volunteers were able to package 20,000 meals at the Rise Against Hunger New York/New Jersey Warehouse at 60 Milltown Road, on Saturday, June 10. It was a great example of the New Jersey community acting to make a global impact.
Robert Whitaker, Rise Against Hunger’s area manager for New York/New Jersey, hosted the event, which was split into two shifts, from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. People of all ages — family, friends and strangers — worked side by side packing meals. With music and stylish hair nets, volunteers were geared up to work hard for three hours of fun and team building. Whenever 1,000 meals were packed, Whitaker banged a gong to celebrate and further encourage the volunteer teams.
“The food is healthy,” Whitaker said. “We want to make sure the most people get meals. Some of the population are vegetarian; some add fish. The receiving country could add local spices.”
Each meal packet consisted of rice, soy flour protein, dehydrated vegetables and vitamins. The packet addresses most deficiencies, according to Robert Whitaker. With the packet basics, a variety of globally nutritious and delicious meals can be created, such as Panamanian style chicken and rice, onion potato curry, Cuban pork tamales, samosas and aloo chop — potato fritters. These international recipes can be found on the Rise Against Hunger website.
After the nutritious meals were packed, they would be shipped by Rise Against Hunger to people facing hunger in countries around the world. As many as 828 million people in the world do not have nutritious food to live a healthy life, which means that almost one in 10 people go to bed hungry each night.
Seventy-five percent of the meals go to schools and the rest go to hospitals or orphanages. With each box containing 216 meals, a child could be fed every day during a school year.
Countries currently served by Rise Against Hunger are Australia, Burundi, Cambodia, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Moldova, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Singapore, Somaliland, South Africa, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Uganda, Ukraine, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
The grassroots organization, which was formerly in South Kearny for seven years, moved to Union in April of this year. “We found our new home in Union. This (event) is a way for us to say ‘hello’ to community members,” said Whitaker, who views the event as a fun, engaging activity.
“We hope to inspire hunger fighters to join us in our mission,” added Sally Bull, Rise Against Hunger regional philanthropy manager.
Rise Against Hunger New York/New Jersey has 200 events per year, according to Whitaker, with one Community Day event per year.
To date, Rise Against Hunger has facilitated the packaging of more than 600 million meals to be distributed to countries around the world.
For more information, visit: riseagainsthunger.org/.
Photos by Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta