July 23, 2018 | ° F

Students, staff prepare to pack bus with food for the hungry

Photo by Edwin Gano |

Photo Illustration | Students will bring various donations to an empty bus parked on Morrell Street on April 17 for “Pack-a-Bus,” a community service event that invites individuals to participate in every step of the food drive process.

While many food drive participants only provide donated goods, not many get the opportunity to transport their donations themselves.

"Pack-a-Bus," a community service event jointly organized by Rutgers Against Hunger (RAH) and Community Service at Rutgers (CSAR) invites students to pack a University bus with goods such as peanut butter, canned chicken and tuna, diapers and baby formula April 17 on Morrell Street. Once the event ends at 3 p.m., donors will shuttle off with the bus to deliver the hundreds of pounds of food to the needy in New Jersey. 

"Pack-a-Bus" is a unique way to have a food drive, said Julia Crimi, program coordinator for RAH. “It’s just a creative way to have a food drive — something we thought would be different and excite students to get involved (and) motivate them to participate.”

During conventional food drives, individuals finish their roles as contributors when they drop their dry goods in the box and walk away, according to communityactionprovo.org. But during "Pack-a-Bus," students can stay involved from the beginning to the end.

People who donate to the "Pack-a-Bus" event will get a better idea of where their personal contributions are going to, as well as the combined efforts of the donors, Crimi said.

“It’s a cool visual for students to see the impact of their donations,” Crimi said.

Proceeds will go toward the Food Bank of New Jersey and Move For Hunger.

Move For Hunger works to supply the food banks of the country, said Emily Behn, a graduate student and intern for Community Service at Rutgers. The "Pack-a-Bus" event was jumpstarted by Rutgers Against Hunger.

The event has already attracted students, Behn said.

“(Crimi) presented the idea and asked if they wanted to partner,” she said.

The "Pack-a-Bus" organizers seemed to exude a desire to motivate University students, said Laura Austria, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.

“It almost sounds like the organizers are turning this act of goodwill into a challenge in hopes of motivating the student body,” Austria said.

The "Pack-a-Bus" event is part of Rutgers Community Service Appreciation Week, Behn said.

“It’s a week long celebration to bring the importance of community service and volunteerism to Rutgers students,” she said. “It is also to celebrate all of the great community service initiatives that Rutgers students had already done.”

Although "Pack-a-Bus" is one of the highlights of Rutgers Community Service Appreciation Week, more events are available for students to attend.

Elijah’s Promise will host an event on April 13 and 14 where volunteers can clean a soup kitchen, greet visitors and hand out tickets, according to the Community Service at Rutgers website.

On April 15, experienced artists will guide students to paint at the Douglass Student Center, according to the Community Service at Rutgers website. All proceeds will go toward the Ronald McDonald House of New Brunswick.

“There (are) events all throughout the whole week for students to be involved with community service,” Crimi said. “There are plenty of other volunteer opportunities for students to partake in as well.”

In addition to other events, a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) challenge will be offered as a five-day event where registered students will pledge to live on $4.50 per day for one week, according to the Community Service at Rutgers website. Rutgers Community Service Appreciation Week will end with a celebratory dinner and discussion about hunger and poverty.

Rutgers Against Hunger previously ran a Pack-a-Bus event when Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey in 2012, Crimi said. The success of the event motivated the organization to use the same idea three years later.

The use of buses allows the event to become relatable for members of the Rutgers community, Austria said.

“I think using the bus is a good stunt to use to attract attention to the public.” she said. “It seems like a nice way to get students to donate things like canned goods and have the whole community involved in such an important cause.”

Students who cannot attend the actual event can donate food to both the Rutgers Against Hunger Office and Student Involvement Office in the Student Activities Center on the College Avenue campus, according to the Community Service at Rutgers website. Donations will be accepted until April 16.

The biggest strength of the event is its creativity and uniqueness, Crimi said.

Students who donate will be automatically entered in a raffle, with the chance to potentially win a 48-inch high-definition television, according to the Community Service at Rutgers website.

The event will be specifically designed to welcome individuals passing by, Crimi said. During the Pack-a-Bus event, music will be playing to attract potential donors.

“It will excite students to get involved (and) motivate them to participate,” she said. “It’ll be a fun place to be.”

Connor McCarthy

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