Every so often, a gong rang out across Augusta State University’s Christenberry Fieldhouse on Saturday morning.
Each time, a loud cheer rose from more than 350 volunteers in celebration of another 1,000 meals packaged during Stop Hunger Now.
In one hour, volunteers from Rotary clubs, Augusta State University and the community packaged 47,538 meals that will be shipped to school children in Zambia.
“It’s organized chaos,” volunteer Sheri Loflin said.
Volunteers filled the second floor of the athletic center. Groups weighed and bagged food – rice, soy, dry vegetables and a vitamin – which were then sealed and boxed for shipping. Each bag contained six servings.
“What we’re finding is parents will send their children to school to get a hot meal and be educated, instead of working to make money to put food on the table,” event organizer Pam Lightsey said.
The meals packaged Saturday will be sent to a warehouse in Atlanta until they are ready to be shipped to Africa, Lightsey said.
This is the second time the event has been held in Augusta. The first was Sept. 11, 2010. That event raised enough money to package 80,000 meals.
The Augusta Rotary Club was recognized this year by Stop Hunger Now for packaging more than 100,000 meals between the two events, Lightsey said.
Kyle Galenski, the program manager for Stop Hunger Now, said the Atlanta program has packaged more than 1.8 million meals in Georgia since Jan. 1.
“The philosophy is that putting meals into schools gets kids to go to school and stay in school,” Galenski said. “So it’s not providing meals, we’re providing them with the opportunity to be educated.”
Local children were not left out. A concurrent food drive was held and a portion of the proceeds will go to Golden Harvest Food Bank’s backpack program.
About 245 Richmond County students will receive 3 pounds of food to take home over the weekends.
“There are kids that go home hungry on the weekends that are on the free lunch program. They have nothing to eat all weekend long,” said Shannon Jones, the Georgia Development Officer for Golden Harvest.
Loflin and Bre Musick brought their 10-year-old daughters to help.
“I wanted to introduce volunteerism to my daughter,” Musick said. “She had a better time than I expected.”