MERRILLVILLE | Arrayed in white caps to cover their hair, more than 180 representatives of 20 companies, nonprofit agencies and the U.S. District Court joined others Friday at the Lake Area United Way’s Day of Caring to help those in Lake and Porter counties who experience hunger on a daily basis.
Pack-a-Palooza at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza’s Celebrity Ballroom saw those volunteers pack 50,000 meals in just three hours to give to the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana to distribute to its 90 food pantries.
Each 13.8 ounce packaged and sealed meal contained an exact amount of vitamin powder, dried vegetables, soy protein and rice.
“There are instructions on each bag about how much water to add and how to bake it. Each makes six servings,” said Angie Williams, former executive director of the Food Bank and now LAUW director of allocations. “We chose food insecurity as the focus of this year’s campaign.”
The teams of volunteers lined long tables, with each assigned a specific job in the assembly line process.
Exact directions for how to safely pack one bag per minute came from Ron Pierce of Kids Against Hunger, an organization based in Greenwood, Ind., that started in 2010 after the earthquake in Haiti.
“Those who are food insecure are also often health-compromised. The less we send their direction (in germs), the better they’ll be,” Pierce told the volunteers. “What can you do with one minute? You can feed someone who is hungry.”
Megan Sikes, Food Bank community advocacy manager, said all the meals would be distributed prior to the Labor Day weekend.
“Making 50,000 meals is a huge thing,” Sikes said. “Thank you for helping us feed hungry people in Northwest Indiana.”
According to statistics provided by the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, in there are 87,000 people in Lake County alone that are food insecure, which means they aren’t sure whether they will have enough food to eat, said Jeremy Miller, regional vice president of Centier Bank and chairman of the LAUW board.
“This is the first year for us. Our agency is kicking off a statewide campaign to give back during community service days,” said Jennifer Lantz, state quality compliance director of Indiana Professional Management Group, a social service agency that provides case management for clients with disabilities on state waiver programs. “Our leader is Michele Phillips and we brought a team of eight people.”
Another newbie to the Day of Caring was Preston Bosket, of Cedar Lake, Majestic Star’s director of table games.
“I’m very challenged here,” Bosket said as he counted out finished meal bags to be packed in cardboard boxes. “I would like to do more to get food out to people.”
Enbridge Energy of Griffith was represented by nine volunteers, all of whom were new to the Day of Caring projects.