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October 3, 2016 | By Tom Hope

This past Friday morning I found myself at the end of a conveyor belt as recently shrink-wrapped meals came at me with ever great frequency. My job was to keep the assembly line moving, organizing the meals on larger trays that would then be packed away in large metal rolling carts for transport. Further up the line, my fellow UCF faculty and staff members were carefully scooping out just the right amount of sweet potatoes, green beans and turkey into Styrofoam containers.

Despite a few harried moments where the conveyor belt seemed to outpace my reaction time like something right out of “I Love Lucy”’s famous Candy Factory episode, we were able to put together some 800 meals in a few hours. The sound system had some great old soul classics and we laughed a lot, which made the time fly.

Afterwards we took a tour of the amazing facility providing these meals, Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, where they turn $1 investments into $9 of food. We were told the meals we prepared were headed for the hungry stomachs of children in local Head Start programs.

Hungry children? That put a little bit of perspective on how I thought about my job that morning. I wasn’t just helping pack supplies; I was helping feed children. We were told 1 in 6 Central Floridians grapple with what’s called “food insecurity.” 27% of those are under the age of 18. Some kids weren’t eating again after their Friday meal until the next free meal on Monday, so a program was developed to send food home with them in their backpacks (which was done surreptitiously when the children were at recess, because of the stigma attached to being on food assistance).

It was a sobering reminder that too many in our community—and it should be said this includes our own students and co-workers–are struggling. But it was also a heartening reminder that we—particularly at UCF–can do something about it.

I believe UCF exists to make a positive impact. That charge is not merely words on paper, it is our obligation, part of our public mission. We know Knights are chivalrous and generous, which is why we feel confident we will succeed in reaching our $200,000 campaign goal, with your help. Log in to http://My.UCF.edu, click Employee Self Service and then click on the United Way ePledge link. From there you can direct your gift to whatever area you feel most passionate about.

Let our community know we are not just a university in Central Florida—we are THE University OF Central Florida!


Each year, members of our campaign team volunteer at local charities to get a hands-on look at how the agencies supported through UCF’s Untied Way Campaign make an impact on our community.  Past projects have included serving dinner at SafeHouse of Seminole,  hosting BINGO for the Osceola Center for Aging,  and working with children at the Beta Center. Our campaign leaders are personally invested in making a difference, and they demonstrate our university’s commitment to our community. View additional photos on our Flickr stream.


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