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Creativity and Community Help Raleigh-Based Hunger Champion Distribute Rice to People in Need

By Hannah Payne on June 4, 2020

As the world faces challenges from COVID-19, many of us are wanting to make a positive impact. This is certainly the case here at Rise Against Hunger, especially as the World Food Programme reports the number of people facing hunger could double in 2020, indicating that our relief efforts are more crucial and more needed than ever. We’ve launched the COVID-19 Relief & Resilience Plan, working to assist those in need right now.

Matthew Kane, a Hunger Champion based in Raleigh, North Carolina, was also seeking ways to help during this unprecedented time. As step one of our COVID-19 Relief & Resilience Plan, Rise Against Hunger was asking for sponsorships that would enable us to distribute our existing rice inventory within the United States and internationally. In mid-April, Matthew received an email from a Rotary Club contact about our initiative. This fortuitous email then snowballed into a service project that touched the lives of both volunteers and beneficiaries in North Carolina.

When Matthew heard there was an opportunity to support Rise Against Hunger’s mission and help people in need in North Carolina, he felt called to participate! He knew his friends and community members were also seeking ways to help while staying home — and that’s when he had the idea to not only sponsor a pallet consisting of 50-pound rice bags, but also to safely repackage that rice into smaller bags for food banks to distribute to local families in need. He reached out to Catholic Parish Outreach Food Pantry to see if 5-pound bags of rice would be useful and if they could accept the rice as long as it was packaged in safe conditions. The food pantry responded with a resounding yes. Another local food pantry, Urban Ministries, told Matthew that people had indeed been asking for rice. So, Matthew began recruiting volunteers for the project.

A group of 10 families from St. Francis of Assisi Church in Raleigh, N.C., came together to split the cost of the sponsorship of one pallet and help repackage that rice. On April 21, Rise Against Hunger delivered the sponsored pallet to a neighbor’s garage. The 10 families came one by one to safely collect four 50-pound rice bags, gloves, masks and plastic zip bags. Each family worked together in their homes to hygienically divide 200 pounds of rice into 40 5-pound bags and then returned them to the neighbor’s garage. Once the rice was collected, it was distributed to food banks and humanitarian aid organizations in the Raleigh area.

Afterward, Matthew thought more groups might be looking for a service project, too, so he approached the North Raleigh Rotary Club of which he’s been a member for 23 years. To fund the sponsorship, they also applied for a Rotary Club district grant. The grant request was accepted with a price match, allowing the North Raleigh Rotary Club to sponsor two pallets of rice. The pallets were then dropped off, and the North Raleigh Rotary Club members got to work repackaging the rice into 5-pound bags.

Matthew didn’t stop the project after his church group and his Rotary Club were done, though. He knew we still had some rice inventory available, so he expanded the Rotary grant to sponsor one more pallet and recruited 10 neighbors to repackage that into 5-pound bags.

Collectively, the four pallets of rice became 1,700 5-pound bags that were delivered to Catholic Parish Outreach, Urban Ministries and Passage Home food pantries across Raleigh. These bags totaled 84,000 servings for families in need in Raleigh.

Matthew’s innovative approach to the rice sponsorship initiative has impacted so many in the Raleigh community, and he is a truly inspiring Hunger Champion! If you are looking to also get involved with Rise Against Hunger’s mission and volunteer, check out these opportunities to take action!