Volunteers pack 20,000 meals

Church members dance to music as they prepare dinners for Rise Against Hunger

Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec / Jessie Covert of Altoona was among 65 volunteers who gathered Saturday at Second Avenue United Methodist Church to pack more than 20,000 meals for Rise Against Hunger, which provides low-cost, highly nutritious meals to those in need.

Two tables sat parallel atop a gymnasium floor Saturday in the basement of a Second Avenue church.

There, volunteers young and old wore pink hair nets as they sifted rice, vegetables and protein into individual servings.

The volunteers were in attendance as part of a Second Avenue United Methodist Church charity event.

And the food they packaged will later be sent to people in need, lead Pastor Brian Sandell said, urging his congregation to have fun and to dance to music as they worked.

“Please enjoy it,” he said.

Sandell spoke to a group of about 50 people who had gathered in the gym by 10 a.m.

The goal, Sandell said, was to prepare 20,000 meals by early afternoon.

“We’ve been working toward this,” he said, explaining the meals will later be distributed to people in need both inside and out of the United States.

“They are going to go all over the world,” Sandell said.

Distribution of those meals will take place through a partnership with the international hunger relief organization Rise Against Hunger.

Andrew Moser, a representative with the organization’s Pittsburgh office, was in attendance Saturday.

Moser said his office hosts 100 similar meal packaging events each year, and the entire organization hosts about 3,500.

Last year, millions of meals were packed at Rise Against Hunger events, he said.

The meals cost about 29 cents each and include rice, soy protein, vegetables and a vitamin pack.

The vitamins, Moser said, provide essential nutrition to malnourished people in 74 countries.

Victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma were among recipients, and, oversees, they are sent to feed disadvantages people enrolled in programs in which they learn skills that can be used to build long-term income, Moser said.

“We are creating long-term change,” he said, noting the organization’s goal is to end hunger by 2030.

But meal recipients aren’t the only ones who benefited from Saturday’s work, Sandell said.

His congregation also learned a vital lesson.

“It builds up a good sense of fellowship and service,” he said.