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MCCC Alumni Among Winners in ShopRite-General Mills
"Expressions of Hunger" Contest


In a story where practically every connection leads back to MCCC, a group of Mercer alumni is doing its part to take a bite out of hunger. They are winners of the "Partners in Caring Expressions of Hunger" contest sponsored by ShopRite and General Mills for their video, "Half a Sandwich," which illustrates the hidden face of the hungry in America. A group photo on the back of 150,000 boxes of Cheerios cereal was unveiled at ShopRite Supermarkets this month. Photos of the five other winners are also included.

Christine Magyarits, ShopRite's spokeswoman for the Expressions of Hunger contest, spoke before a crowd gathered at the Montgomery ShopRite on Sept. 9 for the cereal box unveiling. With entries from a six-state region from Maryland to Connecticut, she noted that the competition was fierce, but the video project stood out.

"You moved us. The video was touching and powerful, beautifully acted and produced," Magyarits said. "We hope that by posting it, your video will motivate others." See the video on YouTube here. For more about the Partners in Caring contest, visit here.

The video project is the brainchild of MCCC alumnus and current adjunct instructor Dominick Rodriguez (Architecture '05) and business partner Nick Kubian, an alumnus of Rutgers. Having met years ago in the military, the two are the founders of "Soupervan," an initiative to create a successful and replicable business model for "evolved fast food."

According to Rodriguez, who also works at an architectural firm in Princeton, the concept is a Salvation Army type of social enterprise that is aimed at serving people healthy food, raising money to make nonprofits self-supporting, and creating jobs.

Currently Rodriguez and Kubian are working to obtain funding for their first van, which they hope to unveil at Rutgers' Cook College later this year as a healthful alternative to the university's infamous Grease Trucks. The van's menu will feature soups and sandwiches customized by portion size and ingredients, and accompanied by whole grain carbohydrates.

Learning of the Expressions of Hunger contest just days before the deadline in early 2010, Rodriguez and Kubian jumped at the chance for such widespread exposure. With only a few days turn-around time, Rodriguez approached MCCC Television faculty member Barry Levy and two of Levy's students, Meek DeBradley and David Palacios, eagerly signed on as videographers for the production.

"We thought it was a good cause and really good practice for us," DeBradley recalled. Cast members included MCCC alum, actress Rachael Platt (Communications '08) as a waitress barely making ends meet, alum Cathy Wang (Advertising Design '01) as a restaurant customer, and Rodriguez's 10-year-old cousin Cassandra as the waitress' daughter. Also featured in the video is Steven Medina as the other customer.

From left, Shop Rite Manager Robert Avalone, MCCC alumnus Dominick Rodriguez, Nick Kubian, MCCC alums Rachael Platt and Cathy Wang, TV students David Palacios and Meek DeBradley, and ShopRite Manager Michael Egan. At front is Kassandra Medina.
ShopRite spokesperson Christine Magyarits, right, praised the Soupervan video for its power and professionalism.

TV students Meek DeBradley, left, and David
Palacios display the special boxes of
Cheerios that feature them on the back.

The resulting 78-second video delivers a compelling message in just three short scenes, as Platt is first shot serving her customers, then stealthily removing a leftover half-sandwich from the customer's plate and wrapping it up. In the final scene, her daughter cheerfully eats the sandwich unawares.

According to Palacios and DeBradley, the video was produced in one very long day in three locations. After several semesters at MCCC, both videographers felt well prepared heading into the assignment. "We have learned film styles, lenses, and shooting skills," DeBradley said. "We began the program with talent and aspirations, but we needed the skills that Mercer gave us."

Palacios added that the college loaned them the equipment for the shoot. "It was one of the easiest shoots ever. Everyone was very professional and the sets were ready." Both men are currently pursuing work doing commercials and other video projects.

Actress Platt notes that the connections she formed with fellow MCCC students have remained strong. She met Rodriguez in the early 2000s when they were both participants in Mouthworks, MCCC's oral interpretation troupe. They have stayed in touch and she was glad to take time out from other acting projects in Philadelphia and New York to help out.

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