International hunger relief program visits Athens Drive attempting to break a world record

Jankhna Sura, Features Editor

Rise Against Hunger, an international hunger relief program, visited Athens Drive Oct. 16, 2018, attempting to involve students to break the world record for the largest number of people packaging meals simultaneously.

Rise Against Hunger is an volunteer-run organization “driven by the vision of a world without hunger,” as stated by their website, Their mission is to end world hunger by the year 2030 by providing food and life-changing aid to countries in need. With the help of volunteers, the organization implements two sustainable development goals: to end extreme poverty and to end hunger.

Their first strategy to end hunger is by responding to emergencies, where they strive to provide aid to communities that have been destroyed in natural disasters, conflict zones, or transitioning political situations. The next is by empowering communities, where Rise Against Hunger helps people develop agricultural systems and farms and also teaches people about agriculture. Their last method is by nourishing lives where the organization strives to provide nourishment not only to one’s body, but also to his or her mind and the community.

“We have a large and growing focus on women’s education and women’s empowerment but in general, in domestically, the idea of volunteer experiences, so we want to give events where volunteers have the opportunity to participate in the solution to end world hunger,” said Darron Stover, Raleigh Community Engagement Manager of Rise Against Hunger.

Oct. 16 was World Hunger Day and Athens Drive was one of the many sites from Rise Against Hunger that was attempting to set the world record for the number of people packaging food aid around the world. Three other Wake County schools and two international sites in South Africa and India also participated.

“All across the spectrum, you know the expectation was to have at least ten locations with fifty people at each. That was the parameters that were set by the Guiness Book of World Records,” said Stover.

Around 7:50 a.m., during first period, several classes were invited to participate in the event. Every student was given a t-shirt, hairnet and procedures for the process. Participants were instructed to stand in line, take a specialized bag and to fill it with dehydrated vegetables, soy and rice. The three types of food were intentionally made bland so when sent around the world, people could season it to their preferences. Students would then place the bag on a scale, where it was required to weigh between 389 and 394 grams, and afterwards would seal and place it aside.

“I was initially confused, but I felt prepared for anything. All I heard was we were breaking a world record, so my competitive spirits were engaged. I was gonna make sure we got the record no matter what,” said Cooper Sykes, junior. “I was thrilled to be attempting to break a world record. As a natural ‘try-hard’, I [was] willing to do anything to help the cause.”

The world record was not broken, but by the end of the session, 861 meals were packaged. These meals packaged by Athens Drive students were to be sent to either Swaziland or Madagascar, where an immense drought destroyed 90 percent of the country’s crops.

“I’ve done Rise Against Hunger, formerly Stop Hunger Now, many times previously. However, I was excited that the organization had reached out to my school, as this was the first time I had done the program with Athens,” said Sykes. “I’m always amazed about the difference the meals make, and I was happy to learn about their new agriculture programs in foreign countries.”

The organization chose schools with magnet programs, like Athens Drive, to give students the opportunity to participate and get involved, while also teaching them about what the organization is doing internationally. The event also allowed for special needs students as well as general classes to work together to accomplish the goal of providing aid to countries in need.

“It made a lot of sense, you know, from my perspective locally, so Athens Drive being a global health magnet, so much of what we focus on is nutrition and health and it’s part of our mission for ending hunger,” said Stover.

To get involved with Rise Against Hunger, students can participate in events held at churches and companies all over central North Carolina, or by doing community service hours as a warehouse volunteer.

“The younger generation, I think, is so much more service minded and community minded and aware of the problems in the world, more so than maybe we have been in the past,” said Stover. “You know, with being connected and especially a school like Athens Drive where I heard you guys have something like 50 plus different languages which are spoken and there’s so much diversity and so many peoples’ whose family has roots in other places around the world. What a great place to be thinking about ending world hunger by 2030. It seems to be a school, that would be brought into that effort and really would want to try to join that commitment.”