Hundreds of students, faculty, and local community members gathered around tables throughout the Case Memorial Cage pouring rice, dried vegetables, vitamins, and soy into plastic bags. As they packed, student runners grabbed the packaged bags and placed them into boxes. For every 1,000 meals packed, someone sounded a gong.
In collaboration with an Abbot Academy Grant and the non-profit organization Aaron’s Presents, Andover’s Food Matters club held its third annual Rise Against Hunger initiative on Sunday. Over 200 Andover students and local community members worked together to package 35,000 meals—10,000 more than last year, and enough to feed over 150,000 people in a country in need. In the past, meals have gone to people in Turkey and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Rise Against Hunger is an international hunger relief organization that works to fulfill the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #2, which is to mobilize the necessary resources to end hunger by 2030. In addition to developing sustainable solutions for hunger, the organization provides immediate nutrition for those in need by nourishing lives, empowering communities, and responding to emergencies, according to its website.
Mangai Sundaram ’19 has helped organize the Rise Against Hunger initiative at Andover since her Lower year.
“I’m really passionate about hunger and malnutrition. I thought this event was the perfect way to mix both of them. We would get people together who are also helping and working towards solving this problem,” said Sundaram.
Sundaram worked with other students on the board of Food Matters, as well as teachers like Anny Candelario Escobar, Cluster Dean of West Quad South and Instructor in Mathematics, Statistics, & Computer Science, to realize her ambitions.
Candelario Escobar said, “Mangai had a wish one day to break a world record for packing the most amount of meals, I think a million, in one hour. And one of the things was that I had to start to get her to realize to think realistically. How can she simulate something like that on a smaller scale? And that began three years ago with her first Rise Against Hunger.”
Attendees Ryan Mai ’21 and Emily Mae Murtha ’22 share Sundaram’s vision of working towards alleviating global hunger.
“Simply put, everyone should deserve to eat food. And especially in a setting like this, it’s just great to see the entire community coming together to package food to make sure everyone has a basic human right,” said Mai.
Murtha added, “The entire act of serving others who are less fortunate than you is a wonderful thing to do, and everyone should exercise it when they can… it’s a very global issue, the fact that people all over the world are underfed and malnourished, and I think that everyone from all communities can come together to serve this singular issue.”
Sundaram is an alumnus of Aaron’s Presents, a non-profit organization that seeks to civically engage youth by developing their capacity for empathy and skills for solving societal issues. The program provides mentoring and logistical help so that students can lead a project of their own design. For this effort, Leah Okimoto, Founder and Executive Director of Aaron’s Presents, helped Sundaram mobilize the necessary resources.
“The best way that we could support the project is by bringing people. We just needed a lot of people. We just passed 1,000 kids, so we have a large network of kids and families who have experienced our program and are always up for doing anything around the community. We put out the call to people to get the word out. We provided buses and coordinated rides,” said Okimoto.
Okimoto continued, “We feel good that we can provide an opportunity for our family to keep giving back and keep practicing everything that we stand for. And also that we can support our alumni as they come up with new ideas.”
Despite the initiative, Sundaram still feels like Andover can improve in regards to putting the Non Sibi spirit into practice.
“We have so many opportunities for us to bring more people together and work towards something, instead of just listening to a talk or hearing a presentation. I think we should do more hands-on events like this,” said Sundaram.