HandsOn Kansas State held its annual 9/11 Day of Service Tuesday by giving away fresh produce to families or students who may not have enough money to eat every day. Around 50 volunteers served about 10,000 pounds of food to 175 Manhattan families.
“The face of hunger is not who you think it is,” said Jessica Kejr, agency services manager of Harvesters, who helped HandsOn Kansas State with the event. “Around one in seven people are food insecure, where, for some reason, they miss meals every day. Chances are you might know one of them.”
Most of the produce was donated by local venders, such as Wal-mart and Target, whose produce was reaching the expiration date. Then the food was given straight to families to take home. Local farmers also provided fresh produce to give away.
“It’s cool to see the community donating and staying in the community,” Kejr said.
HandsOn Kansas State has hosted this event for the last three years, once every semester, according to Mackenzie Mong, junior in political science and philosophy and a student coordinator for the School of Leadership Studies. Last year, they completely ran out of food to give away.
“We try to put together a lot of service events that address a community need,” Mong said. “It’s my favorite part of the job.”
Lynda Bachelor, who started the K-State volunteer center, certainly saw the need. Back in 2007, she noticed that the Manhattan area was lacking a volunteer center. With help from the student government association, Bachelor set up the center and has served the needs of the Manhattan community and K-State students ever since.
Since its beginning, the Manhattan volunteer center has inspired other volunteer services to arise, such as the RSVP, which helps retired citizens in nursery homes.
“We’re like the catalyst that started it all,” Bachelor said.
The 9/11 Day of Service event was inspired by studies performed by various colleges, such as Wichita State, that have shown a relationship between on-campus hunger and rising tuition.
“A lot of studies came out last year, showing that with higher tuition, some schools had campus-wide hunger,” Bachelor said. “So, I started asking questions and asking people if they knew someone who was suffering from hunger, and they did.
In response, Bachelor and HandsOn Kansas State teamed up with Harvesters and the College Avenue United Methodist church, which helped teach the volunteers how to run this kind of event.
Kejr said Harvesters was especially suited for this kind of job because, unlike the Flint Hills Bread Basket, they take the food directly to the families in need.
“We’ve tried to remove as many barriers as possible,” Kejr said. “They didn’t have to show any identification. They just had to show up and write down how many they had in their household, and we gave them the appropriate amount. It’s for anyone in need, even students.”
Families and students in need were not the only ones to benefit from the drive. Volunteers like Daniel Krehbiel, junior in mechanical engineering, also felt a certain sense of accomplishment.
“We had to do a service project as part of our pledge class for Farmhouse,” Krehbiel said. “It was a really good experience. Everyone was smiling from receiving the food, and you could feel the thankfulness and gratitude.”
HandsOn Kansas State is scheduled to be announced as the 2013 Hunger Champion by Harvesters.