The St. Peter community has a unique opportunity to combat and learn more about hunger this weekend here on the Gustavus campus.
Participants in the Good Food for All event will be able to pack food for those in need. The weekend-long event, tying in with the Nobel Conference, also features numerous educational opportunities and a Christian social justice concert.
“The main goal is to educate people and then do the food pack with Feed My Starving Children. We wanted Feed My Starving Children to come because it is such a great hands-on activity, but we didn’t want it to be ‘come pack some food’ and have it be ‘why are we doing this?’” Sophomore Communication Studies Major Beth Schmidt said.
Community members have the opportunity to sign up online for shifts from 9:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Saturday and 12:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday for the food-packing portion of the event.
“It’s two-and-a-half hour shifts. For an hour-and-a-half or two hours, you are going to be with Feed My Starving Children and do the food packing. When you’re done with that, you’re going to bless the meals that you prepared,” Schmidt said.
The college hopes to have 250,000 meals packed by the end of the weekend with the help of 1,200 volunteers. More than 800 people have already signed up.
Once people have finished packing the food, they will have an opportunity to learn more about the food they made.
“We’re going to have samples; so people can taste what they’re making. It doesn’t look that appetizing. It’s pretty much like oatmeal. It’s made with rice and soy and dehydrated vegetables — the basics sorts [of] nutrients efficient for them. People are going to live off this meal for the day,” Schmidt said.
“It’s a good way to give back,” Sophomore Health Education and Physical Education Major Marty Schmitz said.
In addition, representatives from organizations in the area will be coming to campus to speak about food issues throughout the weekend.
“We tried to have both a global and a local perspective. We asked them to provide an update from the field: what is the current state of food security from the perspective of their organization and then some action steps. Try to leave people with ‘what can I do’” Assistant to the President for Special Projects Barb Larson Taylor said.
Speakers will address numerous issues with the food system.
“Some may be environmental. It could be a drought or a growing season that has limited their community. It could be damage to the community by a natural disaster. It could be war or political uprising. For some people, it’s a lack of farmable land – a place that is able to produce enough to provide a healthy balanced meal, or they’re focusing on a high-value crop, but its not providing balanced food for their local community. It’s a variety of issues,” Larson Taylor said.
“ELCA World Hunger, the Minnesota Food Shelf, and UNICEF [are] coming. There [are] going to be educational displays so people can walk away with a feeling like they can help more and so that they have a better understanding of how the food system works, even here in Minnesota,” Schmidt said.
In addition to the educational opportunities, the food-packing event will not cost participants any money, as many similar events do.
“Thrivant Financial for Lutherans is donating all the money for the food. It’s 19 cents a meal, which is not a lot; but when it’s 250,000 meals, it’s $50,000,” Schmidt said.
“Typically the volunteer has to pay for the food that they pack during their shift. For a lot of organizations, it becomes very expensive to go and have that opportunity,” Larson Taylor said.
A large number of people and groups, including the Tau Psi Omega, Football team, Women’s Volleyball team, and area churches have already volunteered. If you have not yet signed up to participate, you can still do so as an individual or group online (preferred) or simply show up.
“I think it’s an easy way for people to get involved. It’s a great thing to do as a team,” Junior Economics Major Jason Cook said.
For more information or to sign up for a shift, visit the Good Food For All website.