Volunteers Pack 75,000 Meals to Feed the Hungry

Sacramento, CA  |  Story and photos by Shaunna Boyd
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Rotary members stack boxes of packaged meals onto a shipping pallet for distribution to developing countries. Photo by Shaunna Boyd

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Rotary Exchange students from countries around the world helped package meals at the Rise Against Hunger event. Photo by Shaunna Boyd

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - Rotary District 5180 has 41 clubs in the Sacramento Region that collaborated on a district-wide meal-packaging event on May 17 at Rusch Park Community Center in Citrus Heights. More than 250 volunteers worked in shifts to bag over 75,000 meals, which will be distributed by Rise Against Hunger, a non-profit international hunger relief organization.

Music blasted through the gymnasium as hundreds of volunteers enthusiastically worked their stations, filling buckets with ingredients, bagging, sealing, packing the finished meals into boxes, and stacking boxes onto shipping pallets. Youth exchange students from Rotary International, players from the Casa Robles High School football team, members of local churches, and rotary members from throughout the District all worked together to package meals for those in need.

The meal bags include a nutrient package, a scoop of dehydrated vegetables, soy protein, and rice. One meal package boiled in a gallon and half of water will feed six people. Rich Hale, president of the Citrus Heights Rotary Club, said the meals are sent to developing countries: “They go all over the world, wherever the need is.”

“There’s a lot of starving people in the world, and you cannot function in society if you’re hungry. That’s why this is so important,” said Hale. “One bag can feed a family of six, so you can see the impact. That’s why we do it.”

District 5180 held a Poker Night fundraiser in April to raise $20,000 for the meal-packing event, and Heinz donated an additional $3,000. With a total of $23,000, the District was able to set the goal of more 75,000 meals.

Hale said, “We’ve been wanting to have a big District event, so this was very successful.… Hopefully this gives us momentum for years to come and we can do this again.” Hale said that next year they’d like to fill a shipping container, which holds 289,000 meals.

Hale said Rise Against Hunger is “a very well-organized company.… They bring all the materials and all the equipment we need.”

“This is an amazing undertaking,” said Pete Schroeder of the Fair Oaks Rotary Club. “It’s just incredible when people get together and it’s organized and they know what they’re doing.”

Jim Quinney, Rise Against Hunger community engagement manager for the Sacramento territory, said, “We started working with the Rotary in Citrus Heights four years ago for the 10,000-meal event, and it’s grown and now we’re collaborating with other clubs.… It’s just been wonderful to see the spirit of collaboration, and all these people are true advocates working to end hunger by 2030.”

Quinney described the Rise Against Hunger meal-packing events as “scalable turn-key operations.” They have the resources to organize events of any size, from large work parties to small team-building events.

Quinney said, “We want to engage as many people as possible. Every day we want people thinking about hunger and how they can help.”

“Helping others is a big part of who we are, and who the club is,” said Fair Oaks Rotary Club member Joe Arguelles. “It’s important to come and stand by your fellow man and help other people, help those who need help, so you can really feel like you’ve done something good for somebody.”

Rotary members stack boxes of packaged meals onto a shipping pallet for distribution to developing countries. Photo by Shaunna BoydRotary Exchange students from countries around the world helped package meals at the Rise Against Hunger event. Photo by Shaunna BoydVolunteers bagged over 75,000 meals, which will be distributed by Rise Against Hunger, a non-profit international hunger relief organization. Photo by Shaunna Boyd.Football players from Casa Robles High School volunteered at the meal-packaging event organized by Rise Against Hunger. Photo by Shaunna Boyd.