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Chinese students volunteer at Duquesne food bank

| Thursday, July 18, 2013, 12:04 a.m.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Chen Jia Yong and other volunteers work in the food packing area of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank in Duquesne, Wednesday, July 17, 2013.

Wang Ying never saw cereal or wore a hair net before she came to Pittsburgh. Food banks were a foreign concept.

Wang, 21, and 25 classmates from China's Zhejiang University volunteered at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank in Duquesne for five hours on Wednesday, packaging 6,200 bags of the breakfast staple for needy Western Pennsylvania families.

“We work with our hands to help. It's wonderful,” Wang said.

The students have spent about a week in Pittsburgh, part of a summer trip across the United States that includes stops in Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Los Angeles. While here, they also visited colleges and went to a Pirates game and Kennywood.

Volunteering at the food bank made an impact on the students. It provides food to about 120,000 people a month, said Cynthia Moore, the food bank's education and community engagement director.

While snacking on Popsicles and watermelon during a break in the stifling warehouse, they talked about starting food banks in China.

Food banks are nonexistent in mainland China, said Christopher Rebstock, senior vice president of network development at the Chicago-based Global FoodBanking Network.

Only two food banks exist in the region — in Hong Kong and Taiwan, he said.

“Hunger is creating an issue in China, but food banking hasn't made it there yet,” Rebstock said.

He said his organization will look at opportunities to open food banks in China, home to more than 1.3 billion people. About 13.4 percent of China's population lives in poverty, or about 180 million people, according to CIA World Factbook data.

“It's an experience for us in America,” said Xu Yinan, 20. “And we think it's a good thing that is going to help a lot of people.”

Added Zho Gen Gen, 19: “We don't have so many opportunities to help others.”

Christina Gallagher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5637 or cgallagher@tribweb.com.

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