Academics and Research / Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Student ministry makes lunches for laborers

On any Tuesday night, the Nelson Hall private dining room at DU transforms into a kitchen as students create piles of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Since fall quarter, students in the Foundation Campus Ministry have been assembling sack lunches for workers at El Centro Humanitario, an organization offering a safe, indoor place for workers to find day jobs.

“This project creates a direct link between people that would otherwise be ignorant of one another,” says sophomore Sarah Droege, a project volunteer. “DU students are now aware of lives being lived outside the campus limits, lives that are more difficult and exhausting and unpredictable than they could have ever before imagined.”

Ryan Canaday, a master’s student at the Iliff School of Theology, took over leadership of the Foundation Campus Ministry this past fall and was looking for a new way to get DU and Iliff students involved in the community.

At the first meeting, the group made 20 sack lunches. Since then, the size of the group and the number of lunches has grown. The group now averages 30–50 students each week and produces around 100 lunches.

“Right now we have more food than we have hands to assemble,” says Canaday.  “It’s a good problem to have.”

Most of the supplies are donated by Sodexo, King Soopers and private donors. The group hopes to increase the production to 200 lunches per week and is currently looking to provide lunches to a second organization.

Canaday and student volunteers distribute the lunches in person Wednesday mornings.

“The goal is not to just hand a person a lunch, but to hear their story, get to know them, put a face to poverty and dispel myths,” Canaday says.  “These people want to work and provide for their families.”

According to El Centro, many of the workers are hungry due to the recent scarcity of daily jobs created by the economic downturn.

“Being able to eat at El Centro means they can stay at El Centro rather than risk losing a possible job by going to a soup kitchen or other feeding program,” says Anne Dunlap, El Centro Humanitario development and outreach director. “The program may seem small, but it makes a big impact: hungry people are fed, and they know that others in the community care about their suffering.”

Droege adds: “El Centro’s laborers are now aware that there are young people in this world who are willing to donate time to the pursuit of loving others.”

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