The sound of a gong resonated in the Smith Center to mark every time 1,000 meals were packed by hundreds of volunteers on Sunday afternoon.
For the second year in a row, Andover hosted a meal packing event in collaboration with Rise Against Hunger, an international hunger relief non-profit organization, with the goal of feeding more than 100,000 people. Each meal packed will help feed a family of four. In comparison to last year, this year’s event saw an increase of over 15,000 meals packed.
Besides more than doubling the amount of meals packed last year, the event’s coordinators also reached out to the local community and brought in additional volunteers, a major change from last year’s meal packing event.
Mangai Sundaram ’19, who organized the event, said, “This year we doubled our size; everything was twice as much. We had so many people turn up — we had 160-plus people come out this year. We packaged above 25,000 meals. It was just so much bigger [because] we got more people from different communities… This time we got hundreds of people outside our Andover community, and that was a big part of the event — to bring people together from different facets of life, different communities and experiences — and we’re all coming together for two hours on a weekend.”
Hana Illikkal ’19 participated this year and enjoyed the fact that the local community was welcomed into the event.
“I like how many people came like from all over the area. I had people from middle school, from Methuen, Lawrence, Andover. It’s crazy that everyone came together. Definitely fun. I did it last year, so I was excited to come this year. I didn’t want to miss it,” said Illikkal.
Other students had similar sentiments about the meal packing event. Eamon Garrity-Rokous ’20 particularly enjoyed the atmosphere.
“Everyone was there to help out, and there to make meals… Everyone was having a good time while also being focused on the goal at hand, which was making 25,000 meals,” said Garrity-Rokous.
Both student and faculty coordination made this event possible. The leading student coordinator was Sundaram, who is also the co-head of the FoodMatters Club.
Sundaram said, “In the meal packing event with Rise Against Hunger, I actually led the whole process: gathering people together, gathering our board together, getting people to come planning, emailing, getting emails out, encouraging people to sign up and talking with Rise Against Hunger, really guiding everybody on my team, [thinking about] how we can get money raised and how we can get people to come on the day of [the event].”
Sundaram and other members of the FoodMatters board worked with the event’s faculty advisor Anny Candelario Escobar, Instructor in Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science and Course Head of Empathy, Balance, and Inclusion. Candelario worked with Sundaram to organize all of the logistics that come with such a large event.
“My role was helping Mangai with the budget and coming up with ideas as to how we could generate interest from the community [and] thinking about the logistical side of things and being in support for the team as they put this together for the second year in a row. This is my second year in a row advising for this event,” said Candelario.
In terms of funding, Sundaram thanks the numerous donors and organizations that helped bring this event to fruition.
Sundaram said, “A huge thank you to the Abbot Academy and the PSPA [Parents of Students of Phillips Academy] and Community Engagement for giving us money, supporting us, and helping us pack all of these meals.”
Candelario had fun at the event, but in the end she appreciated most how many people came together as one community for a good cause.
“I think the most fun was coming together. Actually setting up was a lot of fun for the team that actually puts it together. But once the people get here and seeing them actually side by side, next to a perfect stranger and working together to pack that one meal, it’s very inspirational to me. All shades, all ages coming together for that sole cause from different communities — it makes my heart feel super happy,” said Candelario.