Students at the University of Maryland, College Park are planning to prepare more than 100,000 meals in a single day, to be donated to people in need. The meal packages will contain rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a vitamin powder.
The event will likely involve between 500 and 1,000 students, many from the campus's fraternities and sororities, and will take place toward the end of October in a large campus facility, though a specific date and place have not yet been set.
The idea began with Jonathan Fix, 19, who just completed his freshman year at College Park. Fix, of Bethesda, is a member of the board of Kids Against Hunger DC Metro, an affiliate of the nonprofit Kids Against Hunger, which packages meals that are donated to those in need overseas. The other board members are adults.
"I told them I was really interested because I loved what they were doing," Fix said. "It's really hands-on. It's a from-your-hands-to-their-mouths kind of thing."
Fix has long had an interest in helping others. Before his senior year in high school, he traveled to Kenya as part of PEPFAR, the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. As a result of that trip, Fix now helms a nonprofit that supports education for people in Kenya, he said, and he's spending another two weeks there this summer.
"I realized that from Bethesda, it wouldn't be very difficult to raise money," he said.
Though he's been working for years to help others, Fix is a pre-med student who considers his philanthropic work "more of a hobby," he said.
Shortly after Fix arrived on the College Park campus, he joined the Phi Delta Theta.
Tyler Ross, 21, who is from Severna Park and will start his senior year at University of Maryland this fall, urged Fix to join the fraternity. "He's got pretty big life aspirations and dreams," Ross said of Fix. "The guy's got a lot he wants to accomplish."
Ross, who is an economics major with a pre-law focus, is providing community outreach for the meal-packaging event, urging students, particularly those in fraternities and sororities, to participate.
"We need the volunteers to do the food packaging," he said. "When you have these events, and granted, we have never tried something this large, you really have to pound the pavement," he said.
Fix said at least 25 percent of the meals will be donated locally, and the rest will go overseas, possibly to Haiti and elsewhere in the Caribbean. "For local [recipients], we might just put them in cars and drive them places," he said.
Michael Gold, 20, of Owings Mills, is another Phi Delta Theta member helping to organize the event.
"As a fraternity, we've been stressing philanthropic events the last couple of years," said Gold, a finance and marketing major embarking on his junior year.
"The real planning is in marketing the event and fundraising," he said. "It can be difficult to rally everyone together for the same cause."
Fix estimates the event will require about $25,000 for supplies, and $600 to rent the venue. The money will come from student organizations involved in the event, he said.
Said Ross: "One of the big things is I really love when I get the Greek community involved, it does show people, 'hey, we're not "Animal House."' We really do good."