Williams County food pantries will soon benefit from the efforts of volunteers who packed meal packages in Montpelier April 22.
The event drew 400 people who worked in three shifts in the morning at the county fairgrounds to package 80,000 meals. The food packs will be distributed to pantries, school backpack programs and other groups that provide food to the hungry.
The event was hosted by the Williams County United Way and the operation filled the Gillette Building. Teams of eight to 10 people work along long tables to package the materials for oatmeal and apple, red beans and rice or pasta with red sauce meals.
The food and packaging materials was brought by Outreach Program of Iowa. The organization partners with groups like United Way, churches or relief agencies to help meet local food needs. Personal care items are also collected.
The United Way spent $18,000 for the food, Director Bill Pepple said. The money came from the agency’s general fund. Local donations fund the event, he said.
The idea for the food packaging came out of a hunger summit a few years ago, Pepple said. The first time out was a success and so was the second. The menu changed this year, dropping macaroni and cheese for oatmeal and apples, he said.
“We believe that’s a good meal for children,” Pepple said.
Pepple’s assistant, Chastity Yoder, said the food banks were reporting back their clients preferred Kraft Mac and Cheese.
Outreach representative Doris Gorius came all the way from Iowa to help out and train the volunteers on how to properly fill the boxes.
The assembly line production featured people working at various stations measuring portions and hot-sealing the packages. Each box contained 36 packages and each package contains six meals, Pepple said.
With 13,333 meals per box, that comes out to around 370 boxes.
Each time a box was filled, the team would yell “Box!” and a worker would take it and place it on a pallet. The pallets of completed boxes shared space with pallets full of 50-pound bags of soy powder, rice, beans and freeze-dried vegetables.
To aid in the counting process, a grid board was at each table so stackers could place bags for two levels.