Helping out, one meal at a time

Jan. 21, 2013 @ 03:31 PM

It was a holiday, and it was early in the morning, and Carmen Montalvo could’ve slept in.

 “Hey, I’m a college student, man,” Montalvo said Monday. “We are all well aware of sleeping in. But I can sleep in tomorrow.”

Instead, Montalvo, a senior at N.C. Central University, joined with another 1,000 or so NCCU and Duke students and members of the community to package meals for the hungry.

 “Today is for service,” Montalvo added. “What would this world — what would this country — be without service?”

The goal of Monday’s annual service project on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, part of the Million Meals Project, was to package 80,000 meals — bags filled with dehydrated vegetables, grains of soy protein and rice and packets of vitamins and minerals. Organized by the Raleigh office of the non-profit Stop Hunger Now, the meals are destined for school lunch programs around the world.

“There are a billion people on this planet who do not know if they are going to have breakfast today,” Terry Brown, the organizer from Stop Hunger Now, told the eager volunteers gathered in Duke University’s Intramural Building.

“They don’t know if they are going to have lunch today. And they definitely don’t know if they’re going to have dinner today. Twenty-five thousand people die every day from hunger, but there’s enough food available to give 4.3 pounds of food a day to everyone. People are dying unnecessarily, and no one has any business dying from that. We can do something about it.”

Operating like a well-oiled machine, the volunteers stretching down eight long tables were determined to do something. Everyone had a different job — holding bags below a funnel, pouring the dehydrated vegetables, running tubs of food to the tables where they were weighed, putting completed sachets into cartons, replenishing boxes filled with rice.

“It takes a lot of teamwork,” acknowledged Ramsey Smith, who coaches the Duke men’s tennis team and who had brought all his team members to the event. “This is good for everyone to work together, it helps build unity, and it’s good for the community, too.”

Wesley McLeod, a junior at NCCU, was glad to be part of that community.

“I wanted to spend Martin Luther King Day around others who were upholding Martin Luther King’s values,” McLeod said. “He gave so much, you have no choice but to give back.”