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2024 UMaine Meal Packout feeds 50,000 Mainers

On April 23, volunteers at the University of Maine arranged and distributed nearly 56,800 shelf-stable meals to food pantries across the state. The Honors College Student Activities Board (SAB) and staff members coordinated the event, raising a total of $19,000 to purchase supplies. 

End Hunger New England (EHNE) is a non-profit organization that seeks to tackle food insecurity across the U.S. Eastern region. EHNE hosts an annual program that encourages schools to compete in fundraising and enlist community members to pack the most meals. Its objective was to reach a total of 50 million meals across all six states. Maine was ranked in first place for many years and stands at sixth as of now. 

Amanda Levesque is a third-year history student at UMaine. She is a member of SAB and served this year as an ambassador for the project. In terms of preparation, Levesque ran raffles and facilitated other fundraising logistics with the UMaine Student Government (UMSG), which allocated $8,000 of funding to SAB. 

Team leaders arrived an hour early to set up and UMaine athletes helped move inventory to the Field House basketball courts. Volunteers began preparing meals at 3 p.m. According to Levesque, 12 hours were spent on the packout two years ago. The total number of meals in 2022 was 70,000. 

Matt Martin of ENHE traveled to Orono up north to transport inventory and track the number of UMaine meals packed. Food and drinks at the event were donated by Sodexo Dining. 

Each meal consisted of two main components. The first included bagged Spanish rice with a packet of red sauce, dried vegetables and seasoning. The second component included oats, dried apple pieces and cinnamon to make oatmeal. There were 36 meals per box. Over 1,500 boxes were filled and distributed across the state. 

“Everything is super shelf-stable and very sustainable. It’s all very hearty food, so it’s heavy. Cali [Warren] made it yesterday for all of us in SAB to try. The hit was the Spanish rice. You would not think stuff that comes in a bag, that goes to food pantries, is really good,” Levesque said. “And it was filling. That’s what they’re looking for, is something that will fill people’s bellies.”

UMaine is one of the only schools in the state that participated this year. Boxes were delivered to 16 food pantries across Maine including in Baileyville, Calais, Danforth, Machias and other regions. 

By the end, exactly 56,789 meals were prepared. According to Levesque, one of the tables packed 4,000 of them per hour. There were about 300 volunteers throughout the day, with the highest number of people at 4:30 p.m.

“Student volunteers were excited. There was a really good energy about it. For organizing it, there were points of stress,” Levesque said. “Stuff goes wrong. But I think being in the room that day, we were all just thrilled it was happening.”

At the next meal packout, Levesque hopes for more volunteers who are available at every time slot to avoid a lull period. Members of all UMaine organizations and individuals are encouraged to join in on the efforts in 2025.

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