By Stan Paul
Amid angst and uncertainty over the U.S. presidential transition, a group of students, faculty and staff from the UCLA Luskin Department of Public Policy volunteered a Saturday to help needy people throughout Los Angeles.
More than 30 members of the Association of Masters of Public Policy Students (AMPPS) arrived early in the morning on Jan. 21, 2017, at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank in Vernon for a day of community service, where they sorted, packed, stacked and combined bins of food onto pallets for distribution to partner organizations that serve thousands of people.
“This is cool. So many volunteers, even on a Saturday. … I like it,” said Siynan Meng, a first-year MPP student. Meng, who is originally from China, said she wanted to experience U.S. volunteer work.
“This is important for us to give back as a cohort and to the community,” said Nikki Lewis, also a first-year student.
She joined with her peers on a fast-moving assembly line adorned with multi-colored stickers indicating the foods to be sorted and packed. Juice, rice, pasta, vegetables and a variety of canned goods were gathered into bags, then placed into bins stacked together to form large cubes.
Joining the effort was the chair of the Public Policy Department, Mark Peterson, who displayed his knack as a natural “wrap artist” by securing large bins of food atop pallet after pallet, circling at a brisk pace to surround the red and blue cubes in swaths of plastic. The pallets were then quickly fork-lifted away.
“Joining with our MPP students and Public Policy Department staff for a Volunteer Day at the L.A. Regional Food Bank warehouse was, to me, truly inspirational,” Peterson said. “Their dedication, spirit and camaraderie were simply infectious.”
Video by Yasaman Boromand
After a few hours of work that went by quickly, the clatter of pallets and frenzy of activity ceased. In total, the morning’s group assembled more than 5,100 units of food for distribution. According to the nonprofit organization’s website, the food bank serves more than 320,000 individuals each month in Los Angeles County.
“A single day packaging food at the food bank will not transform the world, but what these individuals and others like them do each day going forward unquestionably will,” added Peterson. “There is real clarity in contributing to direct and concrete action that will enhance the lives of families and individuals most in need in our own community. “
“This was something everyone can get behind,” said second-year MPP student Ahmed Ali Bob, who served as the group’s student leader for the day. He said the food bank had a strong record of serving the community and helping the homeless and the needy population who live in “food deserts” across the region.
Originally from the Bay Area, Ali Bob said the group wanted to find a non-partisan way to “do good where it is needed, right now.”
“Given the tensions of the recent election, AMPPS wanted to provide an opportunity for people to give back to their community,” said Sydney Ganon, a second-year MPP student and AMPPS member who helped organize the event. “We thought kicking off the winter quarter with an opportunity to do good would be a great way for students and staff to come together, as well as emphasize our personal commitment to improving the world around us.”