11/17/15 – Pictured above are some of the Nease IB Students that attended the Thanksgiving Community Outreach Event. The following Article, written by Rhema Thompson, was posted on jax-cdn.com (Jacksonville.com) on Sat, Nov 14, 2015 @ 7:44 pm | updated Sat, Nov 14, 2015 @ 7:54 pm
Nearly 2,000 gather at Prime Osborn to fight local hunger
Hundreds of people filed into the Prime Osborn Convention Center Saturday morning, which isn’t unusual for a weekend at the Center, home to dozens of expos and concerts. But unlike most events, this crowd didn’t come for entertainment or goodie bags. They came to pack about a half million meals.
The occasion was the second annual Thanksgiving Community Outreach Event, hosted by local nonprofit Hunger Fight. The agency aims to curb hunger on the First Coast, which it estimates afflicts about one in six families.
“That’s 342,000 people,” said Hunger Fight co-founder Dean Porter. “Twenty-nine percent of them are children.”
The Outreach Event, which convened about 2,000 volunteers from about 90 agencies, aimed to pack 600,000 meals to be distributed to rescue missions and food banks around the region. Each packaged meal consists of about six servings of either rice and beans or macaroni and cheese.
Beyond filling empty tummies, Porter said the meals will provide much-needed nutrients — about 20 essential minerals and vitamins — to growing minds and bodies. The food is fortified with high-protein soy, he said, and each package has about six servings.
After the all-day meal-packing event, Porter said the agency would’ve completed a total of 1.7 million meals.
The attendance has grown from a few hundred last year to thousands this year.
“The return has been phenomenal,” he said. “The growth has been even better.”
Among those carefully measuring grains and spices into plastic packages, were Ed White High School sophomores Jasma Williams and Connor Ebersol, joined by a handful of other students from the school’s JROTC program.
Jasma said she liked that the event focused on those in need close to home.
“I’m not saying helping people in other countries is bad, but maybe you should help people in your country, too,” she said.
“We have our own starvation problems,” Connor chimed in.
They said they enjoyed the chance to help out while also hanging out with their peers.
Kathy Scott, who’d been unloading and preparing the event’s 42 packaging stations with her church group since 6 a.m., said she loved seeing so many people from all walks of life, young and old getting together for the cause.
“It’s truly a family-friendly activity,” Scott, 61, said. “And because it’s providing for families, it’s nice to see the kids participating, too.”