Georgia College sophomores Sofia Papa and McKenzie Fisher were inspired to begin Bobcats Against Hunger after attending a Hunger Project hosted by the national non-profit Feeding Children Everywhere (FCE) in September. At that event, the two students met Kara Teresi, a GC alumna and FCE program coordinator.
“We had this outrageous idea to do this, and we both just went for it,” Fisher said. “We got to experience it firsthand and realized this is something we could do here. There is a huge need in Baldwin County.”
Countless Americans live with daily hunger struggles due to poor economic status.
According to data compiled by the United States Census, Georgia’s poverty rate was the third highest in the country in 2010.
The college student driven organization formed to combat the national issue at the Baldwin County level were nearly 80 percent of children qualify for free or reduced lunches.
“We’re hoping to help kids who may not have consistent, reliable access to healthy food,” said John Bowen, coordinator for leadership programs. “According to a recent report by the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, that’s more than one in four kids in Georgia.”
The student organization’s ambitious mission of raising poverty awareness in the Milledgeville area and collecting $12,500 to provide 50,000 healthy meals to students within the Baldwin County school system actually exceeded all expectations.
Papa said GC classmate Meredith Bowden, head of fundraising for the group, did a wonderful job orchestrating events around the community and campus.
“That also promoted awareness for volunteers,” she said.
Saturday, March 29, the group held its Hunger Project at the Centennial Center. During the event the group and 140 volunteers hand-packaged healthy meals to be distributed to schools across Baldwin County.
After the packing event, all meals were stored at the Early Learning Center.
“[Early Learning Center Director] Blanche Lamb allowed us to store the meals over there, and we’ve been in contact ever since,” Papa said. “The schools have picked them up on their own schedule.
These meals cost 25 cents each and are distributed to children for the weekend when they don’t have their free or reduced lunch. The packaged fare, with a two-year shelf life, features rice, lintels, Himalayan salt and dried vegetables.
Fisher said each county school identified the children in the most need of a meal.
“The principals come every Thursday to get the meals, and the kids are getting sent home with them on Fridays,” she said.
Bobcats Against Hunger will grow in the future, as Fisher and Papa are already planning events for next year.
Hopefully, the group boasting 20 members continues to grow and becomes a staple of student volunteerism within the community. They aspire to feed 100,000 county children in two years time, growing to provide meals during the summer months.
“Literally the entire community has come together. That’s one of the great things about our organization is that we’ve started forming a link between Georgia College and the community here,” Fisher said. “Even though we are in our own college bubble, we think that people do see this and want to take part in this cause.”
Northridge Christian Church, Milledgeville Cares and professor Dr. Greg Kauffman have been a few of many helpful partners.
Based on her leadership efforts with Bobcats Against Hunger, Fisher was one of three Georgia College students named as the national leadership honor society Omicron Delta Kappa’s Emerging Leader of the Year. The entire group received the Horizon Award at the Bobcats Awards also.
The organization will hold an interest meeting Aug. 25 and 26 starting at 5 p.m. at the MSU student lounge.
For more information about the organization, to donate, or volunteer, visit the Bobcats Against Hunger Facebook page.
“That’s a big focus we have going forward,” Papa said. “How do we teach other students to keep this up when we leave? That need isn’t going anywhere. We’d like to leave something that stands on its own to keep addressing that.”
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