The dining room of Cross Creek Country Club became the site of an impromptu food-processing plant on Tuesday as Rotarians and students packed 10,000 meals for the organization’s Rise against Hunger.
With the aid of 77 volunteers, that goal was reached in two hours.
Long tables covered in white linen occupied one end of the dining room, but instead of the china, glassware and centerpieces usually found at the country club, the tables were filled with bins of rice, dehydrated vegetables, concentrated protein, nutrient packets, scales and sealing machines.
After quickly consuming a bag lunch, members of Interact Clubs from North Surry and Mount Airy’s middle school and high school donned food-service hats and joined the others. These volunteers came from Mount Airy Rotarians, employees from Allegacy Credit Union in Mount Airy, and friends and family members in the pop-up food-packing plant, measuring ingredients, filling packets, weighing, sealing, packing boxes, and finally stacking the packed boxes on a dolly.
Up-tempo R&B and vintage pop music kept old and young alike motivated as the boxes quickly filled among the chaos of amateur food-packers, scalers and sealers, with runners scurrying back and forth between the stations.
Rich Armenia, a Rise Against Hunger representative working with the local volunteers, had gotten everyone quickly organized and into production mode, and rang a gong as each 1,000 pounds of the group’s 10,000-pound target was completed. Each ring of the gong elicited an outpouring of cheers, temporarily drowning out the peppy soundtrack.
Before the production line was set in motion, Armenia gave a short talk to the assembled group about his organization and its mission. Armenia told the students and Rotarians that 21,000 people would die of hunger today, and it is the mission of Rise Against Hunger “to end world hunger in our lifetime.” Materials from the organization define that target more specifically as 2030.
Armenia said his organization focuses on redistribution of food, saying that the United States wastes 1.7 billion tons of food every year, and if that food was instead redirected to those in need, there would be enough to feed everybody.
“Handing out food doesn’t solve the long-term problem,” said Armenia, saying that his organization has a school-feeding program that is transformational. “We encourage families to enroll in school, and as long as they’re in school, we feed them.”
He then told a story of a boy in Haiti who has been homeless and on his own since age 10. After overcoming enormous obstacles, by age 16, he is in school, eats every day and is on track to soon become a master welder, a skill Armenia says will take him anywhere in the world.
Armenia was not completely certain where the food being packed in Mount Airy would be shipped, but he said,”I’m fairly confidant it’s going to Haiti.”
The organization distributes food in 43 countries, including the United States.
Lenise Lynch took a moment to talk about Rotary’s commitment to fighting hunger after getting all of the assembled volunteers suited up with paper food-service hats and a supply of sanitary wipes, as well as putting out a few metaphorical fires as the production line geared up to full speed.
“Mount Airy Rotary is committed to a hunger project every quarter, fighting hunger in our community and around the world,” said Lynch, who is Rotary’s R.U.S.H. chair. (R.U.S.H. is an acronym for Rotarians United to Stop Hunger.) Their first-quarter project was backpacks in Veterans Park, now Rise Against Hunger in the second, stocking backpack shelves for schools will take place in the third and finally, collecting food for Yokefellow Ministries in the fourth.
“The next Rotarians Unite to Stop Hunger Event will be in May,” said Lynch. “At that time we will help stock the food pantry shelves for Flat Rock Elementary to help with their food backpack program.”
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.