Rising to the Challenge: Illinois Tech Fights Against Hunger



As part of Illinois Institute of Technology’s Service Month organized by the Office of Community Affairs and Outreach Programs and the Office of Campus Life (OCL), 80 Illinois Tech students, faculty, and staff masked up and volunteered to pack food for Rise Against Hunger’s meal packaging program. 

“Illinois Tech volunteers packaged 11,000 meals on January 25—days like this are vital to the fight against hunger,” says Molly Heggeland, Rise Against Hunger market development manager. “When everyday access to food, wages, and market systems are destroyed in the wake of emergencies, we work through a network of in-country partners to address these needs.” Rise Against Hunger harnesses the passion of local volunteers to pack meal boxes that are deployed to communities that are suffering food shortages caused by droughts,  floods, conflict, and in the wake of emergencies.

January’s Service Month activities were a joint effort between OCL and Community Affairs, and they were designed to kick off the year by weaving service and community connection throughout the Illinois Tech experience.

“It’s important for us to continue to get involved with and be of service to our community,”  says Alicia Bunton, assistant vice president of community affairs. “We have dozens of exciting community activities coming up. Last month, we packed food boxes, and next month, we will raise money to build urban farms in Bronzeville.”

The urban farms will be built at Pershing Magnet School and Bronzeville Classical Elementary School, a part of the monthly activities for faculty, staff, and students to volunteer for and engage with the community.  As part of OCL’s Spirit Week on March 7–11, the Union Board, SGA, and OCL held a Pi(e) in the face event on March 10 during the lunch hour. Students threw pies in the face of an Illinois Tech professor or staff member to raise money for the Bronzeville grade school urban farms, which is a student service project this spring.

“Events like the Rise Against Hunger food packaging day and our Spirit Week events are opportunities for Illinois Tech students to connect with each other as much as with the community we’re a part of,” says Senior Director of Campus Life and Student Engagement Rachel Hirsh.

Hunter Negron (Applied Mathematics 4th Year), who volunteered at Rise Against Hunger meal packaging day, says, “I thought it was a great experience. I got to hang out with other students I’ve never met before, which made it a great social activity. It was also nice to take a break from my school work and have fun knowing it was for a good cause.”

Students can keep track of their volunteering efforts through Suitable, Illinois Tech’s student engagement platform, where they can earn points and develop an extracurricular transcript that they take with them into their future careers.

“Volunteering is an important part of the suite of hands-on experiences you can have at Illinois Tech,” says Kaelen Evon, manager of Elevate Initiatives in OCL. “Engaging with your community helps develop much-needed soft skills that are useful in the workplace, but also you can feel the fulfillment and connection to your community.”

Reeanna Nyden (Mechanical Engineering 4th year), who volunteered to package meals in January, says, “The volunteering event they hosted on campus seemed to be a big success. You could feel how excited everyone was to help out. Plus, I got to have a nice chat with some other volunteers that I have never talked to before.” 

Students can look forward to another local volunteering opportunity in April at Just Roots Chicago and Saint James near Mies Campus, where students can sign up on an individual basis and volunteer for a couple of hours in the Saint James Community Farm, an 18,000-square-foot space built in 2020 that produces more than 10,000 pounds of fresh, culturally relevant fruits and vegetables annually. Stay tuned to the Office of Campus Life Newsletter for information on how to sign up for upcoming opportunities. 

Photo caption: Illinois Tech Service Month volunteers packaging meals for Rise Against Hunger [from left] Celestine McGee, Kai Flores, and Matt Nicole Fajardo (provided).