SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Colleges are considered the breeding ground for our next generation of leaders. Four local institutions are teaming up to provide leadership aimed at solving the problem of hunger.

Students from those four colleges gathered Thursday in one location to learn how hunger is impacting their community. Then they joined forces and did something about it as Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains.

Thursday afternoon marked go time at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine (GCSOM). Students from the Scranton-based institution packed 10,000 meals with help from their peers at Keystone College, Lackawanna College and University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. It’s all part of what’s billed as “Colleges Building Community”. GCSOM Curriculum Education Assistant Moses Moua said, “It’s like one person scoops. The next person scoops the vegetables in. You put in the protein. The next people seal it and then they put it in the packets.”

The rice and bean meals are headed to needy children in the Scranton School District. Before these college students began preparing the meals, they were fed some serious knowledge. Keystone College senior Kristy Hansen said, “There’s a lot of families from this area that don’t have access to nutritional food.” GCSOM Graduate Teaching Assistant John Coulter added, “When they’re at home, when they don’t have food they’re food insecure so they don’t know where their next meal will be coming from.” GCSOM Graduate Teaching Assistant Brittany Porreca said, “Food insecurity is a really big problem and I’m really happy that I’m hands-on and being able to help out with that problem.”

Solving that problem is part of the mission of Geisinger’s Springboard Healthy Scranton which aims to create stronger communities through healthier families. Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine President/Dean Steven Scheinman, MD said, “The quality of your medical care only accounts for about 20% of your health. Most of it is lifestyle, diet, behavior, activities.”

The Scranton non-profit “Here For A Reason”, which began packaging meal kits in 2016, will also distribute these meals and help address a major problem according to its Director Michael Hauser. “In Lackawanna County, we have a meal gap of over 4,000 meals a day so the meal gap in Lackawanna County is huge.”

Four colleges. 220 students. 10,000 meals. Fewer hungry families. It’s an equation these college students are determined to solve. Keystone College Junior Tristin Williams said, “More education, more voices, it’s just going to lead to so much happiness. It’s going to be great.”

The goal is to use Thursday’s meal packaging as a means to other events aimed at tackling hunger. The meals will be distributed September 21 to families in need for kids to eat at home.