Verisha Afzal smiled from ear to ear as she served hot meals to people she had never met before Sunday afternoon.
About 30 people gathered at Gainesville City Hall to eat freshly-baked pasta, salad and bread prepared by the Pakistani Students’ Association at UF. The group set up two tables with home-cooked pasta dishes and bread rolls in front of the building as people lined up to be served.
Afzal, a 20-year-old UF nutritional sciences junior and the group’s internal vice president, helped organize the annual event to encourage students to become engaged in community service. The group’s board members bought the groceries out-of-pocket.
“We want to make sure that we are reaching out to people who are not as fortunate as us,” she said. “We are lucky to not have to worry about where our next meal is coming from.”
About 15 UF students volunteered to serve lunch. They baked the pasta dishes and casseroles for the food drive in the morning at the Chase Hollow apartment complex, where the group usually holds meetings, Afzal said.
Gainesville residents were encouraged to eat as much as they pleased as they sat on benches and talked with club members.
Ibrahim Ragab, a 21-year-old UF biology senior, joined the club this semester to hang out with friends but volunteered for the drive to help those in need.
Ragab said preparing the meals as a team was his favorite part about volunteering for the food drive.
He sat with residents after serving them to make sure they were enjoying their meal. He wanted them to feel welcome, he said.
“It is so easy to forget that there are people who are not nearly as lucky as you in life,” Ragab said. “It’s always important to lend a helping hand when you get the chance.”