Arcadia University Takes Action Against Hunger

By Purnell T. Cropper | January 24, 2013

Photography JIN ZHAO ’13

On a glacial Monday afternoon, service-minded Arcadia University students, joined by members of the surrounding community, gathered in the sports dome to prepare nutritious meals for those in need at the second annual Pack-a-thon. Shaking the cold from their frozen fingers, volunteers humbly graced their chilled heads with hairnets, ready to go to work. This year, Pack-a-thon fell on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and offered a fitting tribute to the admirable leader who, in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” wrote: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

To optimize efficiency, each volunteer was given a single task in the production line. Led by staff from Stop Hunger Now, an international relief organization that coordinates the distribution of food and other aid around the world, one person held a plastic bag steady under a funnel, while another poured in grain, soy, vegetables, and vitamins in a specific order, before a third volunteer transported the bag to another table, where it was heat-sealed and then boxed. Once five boxes (the equivalent of 1,000 meals) were filled, a gong was struck and everyone erupted into cheers knowing a milestone had been met. All told, more than 15,000 meals were packaged and prepared for distribution around the world.

Dina Pinsky, Professor of Sociology and Coordinator of Gender and Women’s Studies, brought her rosy-cheeked and eager children to the event. “It’s important to honor Martin Luther King Day not only as a day off of school and work,” she said, “I’m looking forward to helping my kids learn the true meaning of the holiday and to teach them to do good.”

Tennis Head Coach Lak Sphabmixay encouraged the men’s and women’s teams to participate for the same reason. “It sets a great tone for student-athletes to participate in a large community event and give their time and effort celebrating MLK Day,” he said.

Arcadia University Athletics staff and students worked with last year’s well-versed hosts in the Community Service Office to create a special environment. Max Kulp ’13, one of the coordinators of the massive event, had a blast working with multiple organizations. “Including the sports teams was fun, satisfied their community service requirements, and made for a great turnout. It’s a fun event,” he said.

The collaboration made for an unprecedented turnout, with twice as many volunteers as work stations. To solve the fortunate problem, attendees split into two shifts; while one group worked, the other took a break, socializing and playing soccer.

What’s next for Pack-a-thon?  Stephanie Oddi ’15, a volunteer in the Community Service Office, says they are looking into involving sports teams even more heavily in the future in order to create even more momentum for change.