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Volunteers Pack More Than 18,000 Meals for Hungry as Part of Family Weekend Service Event

Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

More than 1,700 parents and family members participated in UC San Diego’s fifth annual All-Campus Family Weekend, where students and their parents, guardians and friends gathered to explore all that makes UC San Diego a world-renowned university.

The weekend of events, held Oct. 26 to 28, had a record number of participants this year. Guests had the opportunity to visit the San Diego Zoo, discover the Birch Aquarium, explore the campus’s college system and even catch some comic acts during Friday’s Family Fun Night.

New to the tradition this year was a service project that benefited Stop Hunger Now, an international hunger relief organization. On Sunday morning, more than 180 students, parents and staff gathered at the Price Center to pack more than 18,000 meals to feed hungry families around the world.

Student Affairs Essay Contest

This year, the Office of Student Affairs held an essay contest to honor the supportive roles families play in students' education and in the life of the university. The Family of the Year award was given to Revelle College senior Fernando Picazo and his family. “My college experience has been full of struggles and triumphs,” Picazo wrote in his essay. “And through each of these roses and thorns, my family has been with me, both physically and spiritually.” On Saturday morning, The Picazo family was recognized by Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Penny Rue during the welcome session of Family Weekend. As the winner of this year’s award, Fernando received a $350 credit at the UCSD bookstore, a commemorative plaque and his family was offered complimentary registration for Family Weekend and complimentary hotel accommodations.

“This is a great opportunity for families to do service work that is really hands-on,” said Laci Weeden, director of UC San Diego’s Parents and Family Program. “We introduced this service component to Family Weekend because it’s really a great way to show parents and families what UC San Diego is all about. With our ranking by Washington Monthly as the No. 1 school in the nation for our contributions to the country, we want to show how we give back locally, nationally and globally.”

When Shou Mo, Stop Hunger Now assistant program manager for Southern California, asked the crowd if they believed they could see the end of world hunger happen during their lifetime, they answered with a resounding, “Yes.”

“Each meal cost 25 cents,” Mo explained to the crowd of volunteers. “There are 7 billion people on the planet. One billion suffer from chronic hunger because they make less than $1 a day. In total, about half of the world’s population makes less than $2 a day…That means half the world’s population goes to bed hungry every night.”

Mo encouraged the group of volunteers to think about the impact the meals they were preparing would have on the world. “Stop Hunger Now targets schools to donate to; we do this to encourage young people in third world countries to go to school to not only get their nutrition needs met, but to get an education, so they can have a better future.”

The Stop Hunger Now meals packed at the Price Center will go to countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia.

As the families got to work packing the thousands of meals, a DJ played music to energize the crowd and a gong was rung each time a thousand meals were packed.

For freshman Krystina Hernandez, the high-energy service activity was exhilarating. “I am from Nebraska,” she said. “In my hometown of Omaha, I volunteered for Kids Against Hunger, so I came today because I know what a truly great cause this is.”

Paula Voss was volunteering with her family, including her son, Zach, who is a freshman at Thurgood Marshall College. “The whole weekend has been so much fun. It has been great to explore the campus and see all the students. Everyone is very enthusiastic,” Voss said. “Today was a great way to help a good cause and it’s great to give back as a family.”

Together the students and families packed meals containing multivitamins, dehydrated vegetables, soy protein and white rice. “Each meal contains enough vitamins and nutrients to feed a person for up to six days,” Mo said.

Jinyon Oishi volunteered with her husband and two sons, including Bryce Oishi, who is a freshman at Muir College. “This is such a great cause and a great opportunity to be charitable,” Bryce Oishi said. “We enjoyed the entire weekend, especially the Friday Fun Night. It’s been great, and of course we’re getting to see our son!”

Jessica Knaap, a junior at Eleanor Roosevelt College, joined the activity because it was an opportunity to help others in need. “It’s amazing that so little can feed so many people and [packing the meals] is not hard work to do. It’s actually been fun.”

Weeden added, “Everyone has been so energized and they feel good about what they are doing. It’s been such a positive experience. Many have been leaving and asking themselves what else they can do to give back.”

For more information on Stop Hunger Now, go to http://www.stophungernow.org/site/PageServer.

For more information on UC San Diego’s Parents and Family Program, go to http://parents.ucsd.edu/.