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‘Feed Your Neighbor’ event breaks record, teaches justice

At the fifth annual Feed Your Neighbor at the Sakowich Campus Center, volunteers of different faiths and traditions gathered with one goal Feb. 6: to help the hungry.

Hoping to pack 20,000 meals over the course of a day, event organizers were thrilled to send 24,000 fortified rice and bean meals to the Merrimack Valley Food Bank.

 “We crushed our previous record by 9,000 meals,” said Aldebran “Deb” Longabaugh-Burg, assistant director of the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations, the event sponsor. “It’s a terrific feeling.”

Nearly 200 volunteers worked hour-long shifts on an assembly line, filling bags with dried pinto beans, mixed rice, dried vegetables and other ingredients supplied by The Outreach Program. Members of 23 community organizations and congregations joined with Merrimack faculty, staff, administrators and students.

Stanley Carter ’21 was there with classmates from Intro to Social Justice. Privilege — something oft discussed in class — was on their minds. “We can just swipe a card and get food,” noted Carter.

Alongside him were friends and fellow sophomores Brayden Downing, Ben Morrill and Kate Longo. “This makes me think about how some people don’t have as much,” Longo said. Morrill agreed: “It’s eye-opening.”

In an hour, they and 44 others filled more than 1,000 bags, each bag serving six.

“This was very successful,” said Tamar Miller, a social justice professor. “Students are learning there is a very poor community nearby in Lawrence. The message to students is you’re not responsible for the problem but you are responsible for doing something about it.”

Area faith leaders spoke to the volunteers during the work, among them Shashikala Dwarakanath of the Chinmaya Mission Boston, a Hindu temple in Andover, who said: “The greatest charity is to feed someone.”