Most of us think about hunger in the abstract. Rahul Raj, a 17-year-old student at Wilfred Laurier University, took action. His grandmother had taught him well.
During the family’s trips to India, Raj watched his grandmother give money to beggars, without question or judgment. By the time the slight young man started university, he had already internalized the idea that the poor should always be treated with respect.
A 2001 article in The Aquinian Stu, campus newspaper at St. Thomas University, described what happened next:
Rahul Raj was a small 17-year-old in his first year of studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. His appetite was not that of his football playing friends but his ideas were big and his heart even bigger. In a matter of 24 hours he was struck with the idea for Meal Exchange and had sold it to his Student Union, the administration and the food service people. From Wilfrid Laurier to Guelph in a year and after only 9 years Meal Exchange is operating on 22 campuses across Canada. Raj says from here he sees the potential to take Meal Exchange into the United States and global from there.
That was over a decade ago. The Meal Exchange program Raj started in 1993 has expanded to over 100 communities and raised over $3 million in food and strategic support. On every campus with a chapter, students mobilize to eradicate poverty and hunger in Canada.
To get a sense of the impact these young people are having, do a search for “Meal Exchange” and check out chapters in Guelph, Vancouver, Calgary. To get involved, contact one of the chapter leaders from universities across Canada. Watch the top video below for Meal Exchange’s introduction to food security, the second to learn more about one of the organization’s core programs, Trick Or Eat.
Happy 20th anniversary, Meal Exchange. You are an inspiration. You give me hope.