Champaign weekend project packs 1 million meals for Haiti

By: By Tom Dermody

CHAMPAIGN — When the idea of packing 1 million meals in one weekend for earthquake victims in Haiti was proposed to her by a friend in late February, Alice Foreman had an understandable reply.

“You’re nuts,” was the first reaction of the college senior who serves as president of University of Illinois Interfaith in Action.

A lot of hungry Haitians are happy Foreman let faith guide her second reaction.

“Million Meals for Haiti” was an overwhelming success last weekend as, in less than 12 hours, more than 5,000 volunteers measured, packaged, and boxed meals to feed 1 million people.

(See related editorial by clicking on “Editorial” link at left.)

The boxes were shipped by truck last week to Miami and placed on a boat for Haiti, where the meals were to be distributed this week.

“It’s so inspiring to see people put aside their differences for the good of others,” said Foreman on Saturday as an army of volunteers worked in two-hour shifts around 50 tables set up in a former Hobby Lobby store on Glenn Park Drive.

Providing organizational and financial support for the effort were the Salvation Army of Champaign County and a Kansas-based hunger relief organization called Numana. The Salvation Army will oversee distribution in Haiti.

Among the volunteers last weekend were representatives of several Catholic groups, including the Service and Justice Outreach of St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois, the Korean Catholic Student Association, The High School of Saint Thomas More, and many area parishes.

“If one church tried to do this it wouldn’t happen,” said Foreman, a Catholic from Waterloo, Iowa, who is active at the Newman Center and lived in Newman Hall for three semesters. “You need relationships.”

Relationships were also formed around the tables at the work site as volunteers from the different groups stood elbow-to-elbow to accomplish the improbable. They laughed and cheered one another on as they worked in little assembly lines to measure, bag, and box a mixture of rice, soy protein, pinto beans, dried vegetables, and vitamin powder. Images from Haiti were projected on a large screen.

Foreman said this was the largest project of Interfaith in Action, a service organization that also encourages dialogue among the different faiths on campus. Poster boards at the entrance asked volunteers to tell why they agreed to lend a hand.

For Foreman, an environmental studies major who describes herself as “a very strong Christian” who hopes to work for a non-profit group after graduation, the answer is simple.

“God has put so much love in my heart,” she told The Catholic Post. “I serve because I can, and because if I don’t, who will?”

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