Church packages 50K meals to fight hunger
Grace Presbyterian service event supports Rise Against Hunger, Aid for Friends
“Every time you hear this gong ring, I want to hear your largest shout. It means we’ve packaged another 5,000 meals.”
Ryan Ehntes, Rise Against Hunger employee, stood on a stage over a crowd the 150 hairnet-clad volunteers lining the seven long assembly line tables.
The one-and-a-half hour food packaging frenzy had begun.
Earlier this month, more than 190 volunteers gathered in the hall of Grace Presbyterian Church in Jenkintown with one mission: to package more than 50,000 meals for the nonprofit organization Rise Against Hunger (RAH) and 350 non-perishable breakfasts for the nonprofit Aid for Friends.
Established in 1998 by United Methodist minister Ray Buchanan, RAH (formerly named Stop Hunger Now) has since packaged more than 429 million meals, serving 74 countries worldwide. In 2017 alone, it served more than 1.4 million meals. Once meals are packaged, they are delivered to RAH’s Impact Partners who then distribute meals to schools, orphanages, clinics and vocational centers serving those in need.
Not only does RAH provide nutritious meals, but it makes it its mission to also teach communities additional skills and provide them services to support their
journey out of poverty. RAH establishes programs to teach communities how to be more agriculturally selfsufficient and increase their earning potential.
In addition to energizing the crowd with statistics about world hunger and RAH’s philanthropy, Ehntes instructed the bevy of volunteers with how to properly package the meal — a mixture of enriched rice, soy protein, dried vegetables and 23 essential vitamins and nutrients — into bags that feed up to six people.
“We can’t do it without volunteers,” Ehntes said to the crowd.
Ehntes reminded the enthusiastic volunteers of their goal: 50,000 meals in the next 1½ hours.
“The project is twofold: producing food for our country locally, as well as globally. Our mission allows people to serve in the community,” said Stephanie Templin-Ashford, associate pastor at Grace Presbyterian.
“Grace has been active with local mission campaigns of many types and global initiatives, including those in Africa and India,” said parishioner and one of the organizers of the RAH event David Alexander, “[but] this is Grace Presbyterian’s initial foray into this type of mission work.”
In 1881, Grace Presbyterian Church was founded in Jenkintown by John Wanamaker, owner of Wanamaker Department stores.
Since, the parish has grown into what Alexander described as a community of “rich participation and diversity.”
“We view ourselves as integral part of Jenkintown, Abington and Cheltenham areas, drawing as far as Philadelphia and Lansdale,” said Alexander.
Alexander and his fellow Volunteers celebrate reaching 50,000 meals.
organizers — Templin-Ashford, Darlene Reeves, Bob MacFarland, James Still and Head Pastor Sandy Hulo — have been working since August, contracting with RAH and organizing the event.
“The genesis of the idea was to see the church in a larger context,” Alexander said. “We are a community who live by the Christian teaching to ‘love your neighbor.’ Most everyone here believes that.”
According to Alexander, the initiative surpassed their initial goal of soliciting 150 volunteers, with an excess of 190 volunteers from the Grace community and beyond joining the effort.
Alexander explained this enthusiastic response from volunteers “enabled Grace to add another component to the project, which is the packaging of 350 breakfasts for Aid for Friends, a local charity that feeds senior citizens who are often unable to leave their residences for any number of medical reasons.”
“I’ve done 350 events, and it never ceases to amaze me [seeing] people wanting to do service,” said Ehntes.
Event organizers said Ehntes, an Abington resident, was especially excited to lead this Rise Against Hunger event so close to home.
“We are all excited to volunteer together,” said parishioner Becca Piz, nodding to her family beside her, ready to volunteer.
“[The RAH meal packing event] is something [where] the community is all together; it’s a rare opportunity. I wish we could do this more. It might be [the first of many]; there has been so much interest and excitement,” Piz said.
Over the pop music that blared overhead, the gong sounded. Then the air was filled with hundreds of triumphant screams and tired, dancing hands. The volunteers at Grace Presbyterian reached their goal. Meal number 50,000 now sat in a clear plastic bag, sealed and packaged.
Volunteers measure meal ingredients.
Volunteers packaged 350 non-perishable breakfasts to be donated to Aid for Friends.