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Ole Miss’ annual Feed the Hunger pack-a-thon surpasses goal

By Edwin Smith

University of Mississippi

Seven years of diligent work paid off big time Saturday when a University of Mississippi-led Feed the Hunger campaign topped its goal to provide one million meals for impoverished children.

“We packed 180,000 meals,” said Emily Barnhnouse of Dallas, a sophomore business marketing major and chair for the event.

Roughly 700 Ole Miss students and Oxford-Lafayette County residents participated in the weekend packing sessions in the Oxford Intermediate School gym. Money for the event was raised through donations from campus organizations, local businesses and churches.

“I was overwhelmed with emotion when we not only reached the goal of a million meals, but surpassed it,” Barnhouse said. “I shed tears of joy and happiness watching the community come together to make this goal achievable.”

First of its kind

UM was the first university in the nation to partner with the nonprofit organization in conducting pack-a-thon events. Since then, at least six other universities have also launched Feed-the-Hunger programs.

A Mississippi State University student who participated in an Ole Miss pack-a-thon four years ago shared her experience with students on the Starkville campus. MSU conducted its first pack-a-thon two weekends ago.

“Over the years, it has been an honor to have the University of Mississippi partner with us to feed hungry children around the world,” said Melinda Staples, project manager at the organization’s headquarters in Burlington, North Carolina. “We hope that this relationship continues to grow, impacting thousands of lives everywhere.”

Students who participate in the pack-a-thon often travel to other countries to make deliveries.

“The meals that are packed are now on an 18-wheeler and are waiting to be shipped overseas,” Barnhouse said. “Our packing number was ‘4,’ therefore we can track our boxes through photographs and see where it is and at what stages of the delivery process.”

Plans are already in the works for future pack-a-thons.

“We will be hosting at least two more events during this spring school semester to start raising funds for next year’s pack-a-thon,” Barnhouse said. “The next packing event will be taking place again at the end of February.

“Each year we try and make it bigger than the last. Next year, I believe the pack-a-thon chair will reach for an even higher packing goal.”

Cayla Hari, last year’s Pack-a-Thon chairperson, was among those who made the trip to Haiti in January. She described what she witnessed while visiting Haitian schools, orphanages and remote villages.

“Being able to make a difference beside those who are in your community is so rewarding,” said Harli, a junior psychology and Spanish major from Southaven.

“The need in Haiti is so great. One day, we witnessed school kids literally filling their pockets and backpacks with extra food in order to take it home to their starving families. It was heartbreaking.”

Staples said she understands how deeply being involved with actual deliveries affects students.

“Actually seeing these malnourished children helps university students to briefly step out of their world and connects them to something great,” Staples said. “Most times, the meal delivered is the only one these children may eat the whole day. Sometimes, it’s the only one they have for an entire week.”

Barnhouse said participants also brought donations for the local program Love Packs, which provides meals for Oxford and Lafayette County school students who may not have meals over the weekend. Items being collected included Beanee Weenees, pop-top soup or ravioli, applesauce and granola bars.

“We’re showing the local community how passionate we are about feeding children that need it,” she said. “These people really need us. That’s the message we want to get across.”