Students join in community effort to fight hunger

Students, from left, Claire O'Connor, Caitlyn Atkins and Taylor Young volunteer with the WCU Wesley Foundation to help package meals at the Stop Hunger Now event on Sat, Oct 1. The meals are targeted for school food programs in the Horn of Africa. In about a month, students from the Wesley Foundation were able to raise nearly $1,400 to contribute to the cause.

Students, from left, Claire O’Connor, Caitlyn Atkins and Taylor Young volunteer with the WCU Wesley Foundation to help package meals at the Stop Hunger Now event Oct 1.

Nearly 100 volunteers from the Western Carolina University community spent the afternoon of Saturday, Oct. 1, packaging 36,288 meals for Stop Hunger Now, an international hunger relief organization.

The WCU Wesley Foundation sponsored the event in conjunction with WCU Teaching Fellows and the WCU Center for Service Learning. In a little more than a month, the Wesley Foundation, with the help of Cullowhee United Methodist Church, raised around $9,200 for the meal-packing event. The original goal of 20,000 meals at a cost of $5,000 was quickly adjusted when a community member made a substantial donation to jumpstart the effort. Students hosted five fundraisers and raised about $1,400 to contribute to the event. Private individuals from within the WCU community donated the remainder of the funds.

WCU’s involvement was related to the yearlong WCU Poverty Project. Throughout the 2011-12 academic year, students, faculty and staff from across campus will take part in engaged teaching, learning, service, and creative and scholarly opportunities focused on poverty, locally and globally.

“I was shocked at how bad things are,” said Jay Hinton, director of the WCU Wesley Foundation, speaking about the disparity in the Horn of Africa. “When I saw some of the pictures of the children, I knew we had to do something right away.” Hinton helped organize the Stop Hunger Now event for the Wesley Foundation. The meals that were packaged are targeted for school food programs in the Horn of Africa.

Students from the Wesley Foundation as well as volunteers from the Center for Service Learning and the Teaching Fellows program joined with members of the community to package the meals. The team ultimately surpassed the adjusted goal of 30,000 meals during the five-hour event.

Tiffany Clark, a member of the Wesley Foundation and a teaching fellow at WCU, was on hand to assist with the packing. “It was a good chance to help people,” said Clark, “I had a ton of fun even though we spent hours on our feet.” Clark said she felt that it was a great opportunity for students to come together and provide help for those that they would not normally aid.

“This event was important because it allowed students from a many backgrounds, who are involved with a variety of student organizations at WCU, to collaborate on a project of selfless giving,” said Hinton. “When students make up their mind to work towards a common cause, they have a lot of power and can create big change for their local communities and the world,” Hinton said.

This is the second year the Wesley Foundation has sponsored the Stop Hunger Now meal-packing event. Last year, they were able to pack over 20,000 meals after the earthquake in Haiti.

Stop Hunger Now coordinates the distribution of food and other life-saving aid around the world. Volunteers that participate in the meal-packing program package dehydrated, highly nutritious meals for use in crisis situations and in developing countries around the world. Since the meal-packing program’s inception in 2005, nearly 30 million meals have been packaged with help from over 100,000 volunteers from around the country.

For more information about the WCU Wesley Foundation, contact Hinton by telephone at 828-368-4234 or by email at To find out more about the Teaching Fellows program at WCU, contact Jacqueline Smith, Director, at 828-227-7056 or To learn more about the WCU Center for Service Learning, visit their website at Center for Service Learning or call their office at 828-227-7184. Contact Stop Hunger Now by telephone at 888-501-8440 or on the web at