Over 200 students, faculty, staff and community members came together to volunteer through the Office of Student Affairs and Pack Away Hunger to battle hunger on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Their goal was to make of 56,000 meals for those in the area surrounding the University of Indianapolis.
These meals, named Nutri-Plenty meals, are made with 21 different vitamins and nutrients and can treat nutrient deficiency in youth, according to The Pack Away Hunger Website. Vice President for Student and Campus Affairs and Dean of Students Kory Vitangeli said that because UIndy did not have class on MLK day, the university has hosted the event to give students the opportunity participate in a service event.
“We wanted to have a significant event to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. in that service was very important to him, [along with] giving back to the local community,” said Vitangeli. “And with Pack Away Hunger you can designate where the meals go and with us, we’ve chosen to keep it within the local community.”
The event represents the idea of “education for service” which is one of the core beliefs of the university. According to Pack Away Hunger Event Manager Craig Cairns, Pack Away Hunger works with the area around their headquarters.
“We do probably around 80 percent of our events like this—some larger, some smaller— [and] are done in a three or four county area. So, most of our events are close proximity to our headquarters,” Cairns said. “It’s great to work with UIndy because the kids come in, and they’re excited. It’s been real neat the last couple years because they’ve included not only the students and staff ,but also the community as well. And that’s neat when you can put all that together, that brings a sense of community to the entire program.”
This is the fifth year UIndy has transitioned to doing this event. In the years before Pack Away Hunger, the university visited historical sites that were related to Martin Luther King Jr. in a way to honor him and his legacy, according to Vitangeli. According to Cairns, working towards helping people can be rewarding to students.
“Service to others is a way of life, unfortunately we’ve kind of gotten away from that, it’s really neat today to look down there and you’ll see kids standing beside 60, 70, 80-year-old people,” Cairns said. “This is something that everybody can do. Everybody can share. Everybody can have the same experience of helping others and that’s important. That’s what I said in there, what makes my job so good is that there is nobody here with ulterior motives, they’re here to help others.”
Sophomore mechanical engineering major Tyler Cook, who grew up on the south side of Indianapolis, said he participated in the event in order to combat the issues he’s seen within his communities. This is Cooks first time participating in the event and said the best part of the event was the teamwork aspect.
“I like working with others to accomplish a goal, like this right here, an assembly line team to be able to get something done and work,” said Cook. “We think 56,000 meals—like they were talking about earlier—we think this huge number, but then it just takes a couple hours to do when everyone puts their mind to it.”
MLK fought to end segregation in the United States and fought against the injustices African Americans faced. Philosophy and Religion Professor Perry Kea, who, according to Kea, grew up witnessing the things that Martin Luther King Jr. fought to stop, said this is his way of honoring his legacy.
“I grew up in the South, in the civil rights era, I know what that struggle means more than some people who didn’t grow up in that time,” said Kea. “I got to know a lot of African-Americans students in Jr. high and in high school that I wouldn’t of otherwise, and that’s when I began to learn what culture taught me was wrong and without the efforts of people like Dr. King, we might still be stuck in something like that. Little things to honor that legacy are important.”
The event exceeded it’s goal of 56,000 meals and was just short of 60,000 meals. According to Vitangeli, The Office of Student Affairs plans to continue the event into the future as a way to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.