Monday is a day off for most people, but for hundreds of volunteers from Duke University and Durham, it is a "day on" to help impoverished people around the world.
More than 500 student and community volunteers will gather in the Freeman Center for Jewish Life at Duke to package meals with Stop Hunger Now, an international hunger relief organization.
Organized by representatives of Duke, North Carolina Central University and the Rotary Club of Durham, the Million Meals Project has become an annual event to honor of the life and service of Martin Luther King Jr. Volunteers will gather at 9:30 p.m. to begin packaging a as many as 80,000 meals that will be sent to countries determined to have the greatest need. Last year, the event was held at Southern High School, and volunteers packaged more than 64,500 meals.
"It's hard to believe that something as simple as a well-balanced meal each day is a luxury for so many people. Participating in Million Meals is such a privilege because it shows that we can solve problems when we work together," said Rasheed Brown, an NCCU student and volunteer.
Stop Hunger Now's highly nutritious meals include rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a vitamin-fortified flavoring mix with 21 essential vitamins and minerals. Each meal costs 25 cents to make. Stop Hunger Now provides the ingredients with funds from sponsors, contributors and student donations.
Donations from several Duke offices and programs helped fund this year's event. Donors include the Duke Chapel, Duke Center for Multicultural Affairs, Durham Rotary Club, Duke MLK Commemoration Committee, Duke Office of Durham and Regional Affairs, Duke Partnership for Service and Duke Student Government.
"Inviting students from different schools and different religious traditions to come together in a shared act of service is a fitting way to honor King's legacy," said the Rev. Dr. Sam Wells, dean of Duke Chapel. "He was an inspirational leader who understood the call to service to be an expression of his personal faith."
Since the inception of the Stop Hunger Now meal packaging program in 2005, volunteers have packaged nearly 57 million meals that have aided individuals in 76 countries.