My experience with Mass Impact, like all good things in life, involved a ton of food.  Literally.

 

What started with a Facebook post in August, ended with sorting over 2,600 pounds of carrots and beets in September.

 

Over the summer, I had seen a post by UMass about registering for Mass Impact Day of Service, the University’s annual day of service.  I immediately messaged my friends asking them to register with me. 

 

I love community service but oftentimes find it hard to volunteer while at school.  There are so many opportunities in the area to get involved with, but without a car, it’s difficult getting there to take part.

 

Mass Impact, with rides and locations coordinated already, was an opportunity my friends and I couldn’t refuse!

 

Through the Volunteer UMass Database, students can choose from upwards of 30 sites specifically organized for Mass Impact. There were groups working with Habitat for Humanity and the local historical society.  Some students were working with the elderly while others planted gardens at different elementary schools. 

 

When I looked to sign up for a site, it was easy to find our niche.  My friends and I chose the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts where we would be helping sort fresh produce to be picked up by local pantries and other charitable organizations.

 

This year was the 3rd Annual Mass Impact Day of Service.  On Saturday, September 13, my friends and I were bussed off campus in the early hours of the morning.  With our site chosen, new t-shirts on, and lunches bagged, we were ready to go. Check out this great video of the day!

 

At the Food Bank, we worked alongside students from RSOs like Latinos Unidos and the Biochemistry Club.  We quickly found a stereo and music filled the warehouse as we tried to see who could fill bags of carrots the fastest (my team won by a landslide, of course)! To an outside observer, we must have looked ridiculous running around with our arms filled with vegetables, but it was the most fun I’ve had on a Saturday morning. Together, we sorted over 2,600 pounds of fresh carrots and beets to be distributed to local pantries and shelters. 

 

A unique aspect of Mass Impact is its dual focus on both service and education.  Of course students are volunteering to support the community, but it is also an opportunity to learn from or about the community we are serving.  This was especially true in my experience.

 

At the food bank, my fellow volunteers and I were asked to compose grocery lists for someone with typical budgetary constraints of those served by food banks and pantries.  For example, I had to buy a week’s worth of food for a disabled veteran with just $10.  The experience was eye opening to say the least.

 

We also discussed some shocking local hunger facts:

  • 1 in 5 children in Western Massachusetts live in food insecure households.
  • More than 200,000 people in Western Massachusetts (that’s one in every eight residents) face hunger.
  • Each week, 15,000 of our neighbors seek food assistance from The Food Bank and their 300 member agencies.

 

Food insecurity in the United States, and in Massachusetts, is one of the biggest problems we are facing.  But it is also one the problems we talk about the least.  The educational portion of the day truly put into perspective what we had spent our whole day working towards, and it certainly inspired more than a few of us to continue work combatting food insecurity beyond Mass Impact. 

 

Mass Impact was one day of the year to give to the community, a community that we live and learn in.  For me, it has sparked a new passion in hunger and I look forward to my next chance to work with the Food Bank!  I encourage everyone to participate, perhaps you’ll find a cause for you too!

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