Den­ver vol­un­teers pack meals for strug­gling seniors

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Tom McGhee

Vol­un­teers wear­ing bright, red T-shirts em­bla­zoned with the words “Ready. Set. Pack.” joined Sun­day to pack 500,000 meals for strug­gling se­nior cit­i­zens in the Den­ver area.

This is the third year in a row that the AARP Foun­da­tion is hold­ing a cel­e­bra­tion of ser­vice to the com­mu­nity by chal­leng­ing peo­ple to vol­un­teer their time to pack the meals. Un­like in pre­vi­ous years, when the chal­lenge was held only in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., the foun­da­tion is hold­ing events this year in Wash­ing­ton, Den­ver, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Mem­phis, Tenn.

“We wanted to take it on the road,” said Lisa Marsh Ry­er­son, pres­i­dent of the AARP Foun­da­tion.

Two thou­sand peo­ple signed up to work at the event at Mag­ness Arena on the Univer­sity of Den­ver cam­pus.

Vol­un­teers worked in shifts, with 400 peo­ple pack­ing the meals at a time. The event be­gan at 8 a.m., and vol­un­teers had packed 210,000 meals by 11:04 a.m.

Each shift lasted 90 min­utes, dur­ing which the group mea­sured out lentils and other in­gre­di­ents for the meals of pro­tein­packed red lentil jam­bal­aya and packed them into bags. The meals will be dis­trib­uted by the Rocky Moun­tain Food Bank and the Den­ver In­dian Cen­ter.

Each vol­un­teer was ex­pected to pack 200 meals.

“We were driv­ing last week­end and heard an advertisement on the ra­dio. And we thought, ‘Let’s do some­thing to help other peo­ple,’ ” said vol­un­teer Missy Brown, 50, of the de­ci­sion she and her hus­band, Steve, made to join the ef­fort.

Brown said she works in down­town Den­ver and sees many el­derly peo­ple who are home­less. If Steve Brown, 54, hadn’t come, he said, he would “prob­a­bly be do­ing chores and work­ing in the yard. It’s too hot out­side.”

One in seven older adults in Colorodo suf­fers from food in­se­cu­rity, Marsh Ry­er­son said.

Shift vol­un­teers were given brief train­ing in food safety and were given hair and beard nets, aprons and gloves be­fore they took po­si­tions at ta­bles, where they pulled in­gre­di­ents from bins and packed them into boxes.

The packed meals are non­per­ish­able, with an ex­tended shelf life of two years.

Credit Cards from Chase, The Hart­ford, United Health­care and oth­ers spon­sored the event.

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