The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted so many aspects of people’s routines — and that’s no different for us at Rise Against Hunger. CDC guidelines and safety measures led to over 550 postponements and cancelations of Rise Against Hunger Experience meal packaging events, subsequently depleting our meal inventory.
Our meals are important to help us to meet the needs of children and families who are counting on us now more than ever, so Rise Against Hunger introduced an adjusted version of our meal packaging activities that strictly follows CDC guidelines and local regulations and maintains the utmost safety for our volunteers, people we serve and our staff while also providing volunteers an opportunity during this time to help those facing hunger around the world.
“United has partnered with Rise Against Hunger since 2016 and, during this unprecedented time, has continued to support our mission,” says Karen Noe, Senior Global Account Executive at Rise Against Hunger. In June, United became the first corporate partner to host a Rise Against Hunger Experience using this adjusted method! From June 8-19, United employees at three major U.S. airports, Dulles International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and San Francisco International Airport, safely worked in shifts to collectively package almost 300,000 nutritious meals.
United employees at Dulles International Airport (IAD) in Virginia were the first to package in this multi-site, multi-day event. From June 8-12, they were scheduled to package 175,000 meals. They not only packaged those meals, but they did so in less time than expected! Yasmin Ibrahim, Rise Against Hunger’s Community Engagement Manager in the Washington, D.C. area, said, “When we started planning and executing the event, we weren’t sure how many volunteers we would get throughout the week. But from day one, we had a consistent flow of volunteers, many of whom had participated in past meal packaging events! Everyone kept coming back day in and day out, which led us to hitting our goal two days early.”
The packaging continued on June 10 at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) where United employees were able to package over 12,000 meals in a single day! Across the country in New Jersey, Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) staff joined in to help United reach their goal. During the week of June 15, United packaged over 110,000 more meals at Newark.
In response to the shortage of our meal inventory, these nearly 300,000 meals packaged by United were significant in helping us to support the people we serve, including through our COVID-19 Relief & Resilience Plan. They helped complete three containers going to three different countries; IAD’s meals were shipped to our in-country partner ORPHANetwork in Nicaragua, EWR’s meals were shipped to Somalia for distribution by partner American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa, and SFO’s meals were shipped to Vietnam for partner Children of Vietnam. “Together, we found this perfect cross-pollination of essential services — United Airlines is open for business and Rise Against Hunger needs extra muscle to reach their large meal goals. We are proud to partner with Rise Against Hunger and will continue to help advance their mission,” said Kristen Johnson, Global Community Engagement Manager of United Airlines.
While the events may have looked different from pre-coronavirus Rise Against Hunger Experiences, the United volunteers were still able to make a big impact in supporting communities facing hunger and the volunteers had fun doing so! “For a lot of returning volunteers, the modified format was definitely an adjustment, but after about 15 minutes, everyone found their groove and it felt like nothing had ever changed,” Yasmin said. “Even with the abundant spacing for safety, everyone found a way to have a great time with music blaring and conversations across the room with their coworkers.”
We are so grateful to United for their ongoing commitment to furthering our mission to end hunger — even in the face of unique challenges. If you’re ready to follow United’s lead and package meals with our adjusted setup, you can learn more and get started here!