A pair of UMKC students are doing what they can to see that some of Kansas City’s inner-city homeless population doesn’t go hungry as well.
With the aid of a $1,800 grant from the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society, Felicia Ratnaraj, MS 4, and Natasha Mathew, a biological science major, started Second Servings to get food and snacks into the hands of those in need. Twice a month, on Sundays, Ratnaraj, Mathew and as many as 10 to 20 students from various campus organizations get together in a room at the School of Medicine to load up brown paper sacks with juice boxes and water, fresh fruits, snack bars, and various other nutritional and non-perishable foods.
The bags are then taken to Kansas City’s Grand Avenue Temple United Methodist Church, where they are distributed to the homeless on Mondays — the only day of the week that the church’s food kitchen doesn’t serve food.
“We’re using the funds from the AOA to go to the store and buy the food the week before we pack the bags,” Ratnaraj said. “We’ll fill up two or three shopping carts, bring the food back and then make 45 sacks to hand out.”
Ratnaraj and Mathew got the idea to start their project just more than a year ago while at a local restaurant and seeing someone collecting leftover bread. The two decided to start their own program of collecting food for the hungry.
At that time, they partnered with Kansas City’s Harvesters Community Food Network, preparing food sacks for hungry children in the community. Members of the Sojourner Clinic, the student-run free health clinic for the homeless that operates on Sundays at the Grand Avenue Temple, learned of the Second Servings project and asked Ratnaraj and Mathew if they would be interested in helping serve their clientele as well.
Every other Sunday, Ratnaraj, Mathew, a handful of medical students and student from campus organizations gather at the School of Medicine for a couple of hours to pack the food sacks then deliver them.
“We’re not making big waves, but every little bit helps,” Mathew said. “We’re trying to make an impact where we can.”
The students estimate they’ve prepared more than 1,000 food sacks since starting the program.
Ratnaraj and Mathew are currently working to get a second year of AOA funding and say they hope to grow Second Servings into a recognized UMKC student organization that can be sustained after the AOA grant has run its course.
“It’s exciting to know that we’ve served so many people and have gotten so many students involved,” Ratnaraj said. “It’s sad that there are so many people who don’t have anything to eat.”