The third Monday in January each year marks a holiday: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service. One of the four core values of the University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, service, is interwoven into student involvement and CALS courses.
The University of Florida aids in connecting student volunteers with the community for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, but CALS students engage in service opportunities year-round. One such instance is the CALS Day of Service, which provides a chance for students to learn the value of giving back to their communities and make a global impact.
For several years, CALS has partnered with Rise Against Hunger, an organization devoted to providing hunger relief globally. More than 720 million people are impacted by hunger worldwide and the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the severity of hunger across the globe.
CALS students, faculty and staff came together to package more than 25,000 meals for Rise Against Hunger on Nov. 16. The packaged meals include enriched rice, soy protein, dried vegetables and 20 essential vitamins and other nutrients. Rise Against Hunger then helps distribute these meals to people around the world. In the past, the meals CALS students packaged were sent to aid people in Texas after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, parts of southern Africa and South America, to name a few.
“Watching our students and staff come together to make a difference for people around the world is really inspiring,” said Charlotte Emerson, CALS director of student development and recruitment and the CALS Day of Service organizer. “Beyond the service component, my favorite part is watching students get out of their comfort zone, meet new people and get to know someone else in the college that is having a similar experience to them.”
To provide additional relief for food insecurity in the local University of Florida community, volunteers for the CALS Day of Service donated three nonperishable food items for the Alan and Cathy Hitchcock Field and Fork Pantry.
“Giving back to the community is at the forefront of what I believe,” said Sophia Jaramillo-Vasconez, agricultural education and communication student and CALS Day of Service volunteer. “Understanding my own privilege and using it to help support others is incredibly important.”
Those who were not able to participate in person could donate money instead. A $10 donation would provide 34 meals for families in need. At the end of the day, supporters raised more than $9,600 for the cause.
The CALS Day of Service is just one of many events CALS students take part in as they apply the skills and knowledge they have learned to address the world’s challenges.