Students volunteer with weekly hunger relief program for city youth
Every Saturday morning, a van full of nearly a dozen Liberty University students leaves campus and heads downtown to a repurposed warehouse to fill bags with food and snacks for students in Lynchburg City Schools.
Food for Thought is a program of Park View Mission in partnership with several other community partners and nonprofits in Lynchburg. Nearly 600 bags are packed each week and distributed at schools to local students who are considered food insecure (meaning they do not have access to food on the weekends). Each bag contains two breakfasts, two lunches, and three dinners, along with two servings of vegetables and snacks. All items are child-friendly, nutritious, nonperishable, noncrushable, and easy-to-prepare.
Liberty sophomore Dorene Kyando is a regular volunteer.
“When I first heard about what Food for Thought was doing, it broke my heart to know that there were children in Lynchburg going without food,” Kyando said. “I’m originally from Tanzania, and I know what it’s like to be hungry and go without.”
Liberty students also volunteer on Wednesday nights alongside other volunteers from local schools, churches, and colleges.
“It takes a village to feed a village,” said Food for Thought Associate Director Ashley Steinweg. “I’m glad that Liberty can be a positive role model in the community and help lead the way.”
Parts of Lynchburg have long been considered a food desert — an urban area where there are few places to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food.
According to Steinweg, many neighborhoods have corner stores, but there are no grocery stores within a mile of where students live or get dropped off by their school bus. Though the school district provides free breakfast and lunch, many students don't have food available at home on the weekends.
“The fact that the community is coming together to pack these bags shows these students that we care about them,” she said. “It’s a simple example of God’s love.”
Liberty sophomore Elizabeth Krantz said she loves seeing different people from the community come together under one united goal.
“We meet people from all walks of life every time we go to pack,” she said.
Krantz believes that it’s important for Liberty students to get involved with volunteer work outside of campus.
“We’re only in Lynchburg for a short season,” she said. “And we should aim to make a lasting impact that stretches well beyond the four years we’re here. Working with Food for Thought has been an incredible opportunity to apply what Scripture tells us about serving others.”
Kyando said it’s ultimately about being the hands and feet of Jesus.
“We’re showing Christ’s love to students who need it, and it’s empowering to make a difference.”
Several of the volunteers are also students from the Rawlings School of Divinity, which implements service opportunities in its classes. The school had a large push last month encouraging students to get involved with local organizations in Lynchburg.
Service has been a long-standing tradition at Liberty. According to a recent economic report, Liberty students, faculty, and staff volunteer nearly 500,000 hours of community service each year.