It’s a cloudy, humid Monday afternoon and Alma Buljina is busy in the basement of Alexander Residence Hall, preparing dinner for about 40 friends and acquaintances. And while most students would appreciate pizza or burgers, they’re in for a treat of sorts tonight. Buljina cracks open a cardboard box and pulls out a vacuum-sealed pouch of rice. The main course, it turns out, is the same pre-packaged meal that feeds millions of malnourished families around the globe.
“Grab a bowl,” she says, “and try some. Tell me what you think.”
Buljina, a senior in psychology, helped organize the dinner as a fundraising event for Stop Hunger Now, the international hunger relief agency based in Raleigh.
Members of the NC State community will gather the first week of the fall semester – just a few weeks away – to package more than a million meals for school lunch feeding programs around the world. But organizers must first raise $250,000 to pay for the raw materials.
As hungry students begin showing up for dinner, the activity in the kitchen increases. A student volunteer adds slices of onion to a skillet filled with chunks of chicken breast while another volunteer scoops rice from a steamer into a big metal warming tray. Another student organizer, Matt Woodward, sits by the door, exchanging raffle tickets for a $3 donation.
A guest tastes the slightly tangy dish and wonders whether the students have come up with an exotic name for their recipe.
“Yeah,” one of the volunteers says. “Chicken fried rice.”
Lauren Demanovich, a junior in sociology, finishes her bowl of rice at a nearby table.
“It tastes like Ramen noodles,” she offers. “It’s actually pretty good. I’m surprised.”
The university’s annual packaging event, which grew out of a community service initiative called Service NC State, now includes students from eight colleges in a week-long effort across four campuses. NC State kicks off the endeavor on Saturday, Aug. 22.
Organizers are urging students, faculty and staff to join the fundraising effort by hosting their own dinner party.