Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo Courtesy of Rise Against Hunger
Children in South Africa eat meals provided by Rise Against Hunger, packed by volunteers. The organization partners with several churches in the Archdiocese of Atlanta.


Feed the hungry: Catholic volunteers partner with Rise Against Hunger

By NATALIA DURON, Staff Writer | Published July 11, 2024

ATLANTA—Rise Against Hunger, a United States-based organization dedicated to ending food insecurity, helps communities across the nation to fight the global hunger crisis. In 2023, the organization served 37 countries, impacting almost 4 million lives.  

Founded in 1998, Rise Against Hunger works to create a world without hunger. With offices throughout the U.S. and in India, Italy, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and South Africa, each site adheres to four pathways to end food shortages: nourish lives, empower communities, respond to emergencies and grow the movement.  

The organization distributes food, provides grants for local purchases and assists with hygienic needs to countries with immediate demands. Rise Against Hunger responds to emergencies, such as natural disasters or conflicts. It has steadily provided aid to Ukrainians affected by the Ukraine-Russian War.  

A vital resource for the organization’s mission are its volunteersthose who host and pack meals for the millions suffering extreme hunger conditions. Schools, churches, civic groups, businesses and others host events in which volunteers pack meals with sufficient daily calories.  

“These events are highly appreciated because the commitment to end global hunger is ongoing from the outpour of enthusiasm from our volunteers,” said Hannah Payne, communications manager at Rise Against Hunger. 

The assembled meals consist of rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a micronutrient packet. Daily nutritional needs are targeted by providing 20 essential vitamins and minerals. At the events, volunteers fill, weigh, seal and box the meals, which are then shipped to countries undergoing difficult circumstances.  

Parishioners at Greensboro’s Christ Our King and Savior Church packed meals during Lent for Rise Against Hunger. The meals were distributed in Madagascar.

Hosts donate a set amount to cover the cost of meals, with a price of about 40 cents per meal, said Payne. Though the number of meals packaged varies, hosts typically package a minimum of 10,000, she noted.  

Though the organization is not faith based, Rise Against Hunger receives help from several churches and religion-based schools throughout the United States. Catholic schools and parishes of the Archdiocese of Atlanta partner with Rise Against Hunger each year through meal packing days. 

Resembling the work of Christ 

St. Jude the Apostle School in Sandy Springs has packed meals for the organization since 2012, preparing more than 150,000 meals, said Deanna Lancaster, community engagement office administrator at Rise Against Hunger. These meals have been distributed throughout Madagascar, Uganda, Swaziland, Timor Leste, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Ukraine.  

Last year, St. Jude the Apostle Church joined its school in working with Rise Against Hunger and packed nearly 36,000 meals, Lancaster said. Communities in the Philippines, Madagascar and Ukraine have been served these meals.  

In 2017, the theology department of St. Pius X High School partnered with its senior class to host its first meal packing event. The school has distributed almost 200,000 meals since then to Turkey, Vietnam, Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti, Somaliland and the Philippines. 

Lindsey Farrell, theology teacher and department chair at St. Pius X, said meal-packing activities are integrated in the department’s curriculum. Students are taught about the Catholic devotion to service, Farrell said.  

“Our students have a great sense of appreciation for the service they are performing,” Farrell said. “Every class teaches them about serving together as a community, and how putting food in the belly of others resembles the work of Christ.”  

Teaching students about global conflicts and economic injustices helps them understand how faith is so intertwined with community service, Farrell said. Helping others is a labor of the Catholic faith, she said.  

Gerry Carolan, a parishioner of Holy Trinity Church in Peachtree City, started the movement for the parish to work with Rise Against Hunger 12 years ago. Since then, Holy Trinity has packed over 100,000 meals each year.  

Around 600 parishioners typically attend their meal packing days. Several ministries and groups participate.  

“Our meal packing event brings the whole community together,” Carolan said. “The Hispanic community, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, senior citizens and families love to be part of this to help out.”  

Father John Murphy, Holy Trinity’s pastor, has been a supportive voice to the organization, talking about the events at Mass and programs, Carolan said. His support has brought people together in desiring to learn about why service is so necessary and a strong foundation of the Catholic faith, she said.  

“It is our Gospel mandate to feed the poor,” Carolan said. “At our events, we tell the volunteers about what food insecurity is, what conflicts are happening around the world, and how our role in all of this is important. The Bible talks about the poor more than any subject, and understanding what that means helps the volunteers feel inspired to fulfill that obligation to service.”  

While Rise Against Hunger focuses on serving immediate needs with their volunteers, they also touch on creating long-term solutions for the communities they serve. Volunteers are educated on these solutions and are updated on current political conflicts and issues around the world related to food insecurity.  

“We work on addressing the root causes and helping communities to become food secure,” Payne said. “Working with local organizations to implement sustainable agriculture and income generating projects is what helps these communities long-term, so that one day they no longer need our support.”  

The overwhelming support and assistance of its volunteers is what helps grow the organization and keep millions of people around the globe fed. Ending global hunger is a community effort, Payne said, and “with the help we get from our volunteers, churches, schools, businesses and civic groups, we’re one step closer.”