Over 550 volunteers packed into the French Fieldhouse on Thursday night. Credit: Eric Stoneman | Lantern Reporter

Hundreds of people packed into the French Field House Thursday night, working in teams to achieve their goal in a race against time.

While it might sound like a typical day at an indoor track facility, students from the Columbus and Newark campuses, along with student athletes, Ohio State faculty members, alumni and children were packaging nonperishable foods with the goal of packing 200,000 meals for those in need.

As part of a “Feed the Funnel” party, more than 550 participants packed 215,424 meals in a little over two hours, at the event created by the nonprofit organization Pack Shack.

Boxes of food stacked around the field house showed a high level of collaboration among the participating groups, including the Department of Athletics, Alumni Association and the Office of Student Life.

The Pack Shack was founded in 2013 and operates in 36 states across the country working with local communities to provide meals to the hungry. The organization’s stated goal is to raise awareness about neighbors in need and believe the “most effective and sustainable way to help our neighbors in need is to be neighborly.”

Pack Shack works with anyone interested to help host “Feed the Funnel” party in their community. The parties get their namesake from the use of funnels to help pack the dry ingredients, such as rice and dehydrated vegetables, that make up the meals. Once water is added, one packet can provide eight nutritious meals.

Students even brought in their families from out of state to contribute to the event.

“I’m from Pittsburgh, and my dad drove out. He’s here right now. My sister, she’s here doing this, too. So there’s a lot of my family here,” said Matt Stuck, a first-year in finance.

Athletic Director Gene Smith spoke at the event, recalling his own upbringing in Cleveland eating “government cheese,” and noting the incredible opportunity participants at the French Field House had to help others.

“Education on any level gives people an opportunity,” Smith said. “But in order to be able to get that good education, in order to make sure you can learn, you have to be fed.”

This event was the second of its kind this semester, and while the previous effort distributed food across Franklin County, these meals went to Athens County, where 20 percent of the population does not have reliable access to affordable food, the highest rate in the state, according to Feeding America.

“Ultimately, Ohio State was founded to be a state-serving institution, and it’s so great that we can have so many partners within the university and the Columbus community give back to the state of Ohio,” Eddie Koelzer, residence hall director for Drackett Tower, said.

On Friday, the meals were packed into the Ohio State football team’s truck and taken to Athens, where volunteers from Ohio University received and helped distribute them, said Carol Schwiebert, a member of the Kindness Committee.

“It’s really cool that we’re expanding our footprint with this project. To be able to do this twice in a semester, I mean, that’s double the fun, so I’m just super excited and glad to be a part of it,” said Donta Ingram, hall director for the Mendoza-Norton-Scott complex.

For two hours on Thursday, members of the Ohio State community turned their focus away from school and to the plight of others. By the end of it all, a truck full of food was delivered to people who needed it.

The Engaged Scholars logo accompanies stories that feature and examine research and teaching partnerships formed between The Ohio State University and the community (local, state, national and global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources. These stories spring from a partnership with OSU’s Office of Outreach and Engagement. The Lantern retains sole editorial control over the selection, writing and editing of these stories.