1,000 meals packed in a day to help feed kids

Jun. 20, 2014 @ 05:09 PM

In the shade of the Durham Central Park pavilion Friday morning, United Way of the Greater Triangle volunteers had a hands-on assembly line operating efficiently.
Dozens of people moved in a line from table to table, adding items to plastic grocery bags. The result was 1,000 weekend meal kits for children at four Durham elementary schools.
Into each bag went packets of instant oatmeal, granola bars, juice boxes, milk boxes, raisins and Ramen noodles along with cans of spaghetti and meatballs, pears, tuna, green beans and corn. Volunteers added items as they moved down a line of tables, finally adding a literary kit and placing the plastic bag inside a reusable cloth United Way bag. Those bags were then loaded onto a truck used by the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle.
This is the summer version of the food shuttle’s BackPack Buddies program, in which students at schools that have a high poverty rate receive bags of food to take home over the weekend. The criterion for participation is a school that has more than 50 percent of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches. The four elementary schools benefiting from Friday’s event are C.C. Spaulding Elementary, Club Boulevard Elementary, Watts Elementary and W.G. Pearson Elementary, all of which participate in BackPack Buddies during the regular school year. Those four schools host summer programs, too.
Volunteer Andrea Weigand, who works at the Principal Financial Group, moved along the assembly line, adding cans of vegetables to a bag. Fourteen of her co-workers were there, too.
“I just think it’s a great thing to do. I have a child, so I can relate to it,” Weigand said of the program. She said the line set-up made it very easy for them to come and help out.
Mack Koonce, president and CEO of United Way of the Greater Triangle, said they always have a day of action in June, and this year made it part of their campaign against childhood hunger.
“In the Triangle, we can really do better for childhood hunger,” he said. They reached out to corporate partners for volunteers. Friday was one day of many things they do year-round, he said. Through United Way’s partnership with the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, they paid wholesale for the grocery items.
“It really is being part of a movement around an important issue, being part of the community effort to move the needle on this issue,” Koonce said.
Phillip Ethan Hamby, who recently started working at Nationwide Insurance, said it was his first opportunity to volunteer with United Way. He was among a dozen Nationwide employees volunteering Friday.
Paul Curcio, a claims manager at Nationwide, said they do all of United Way’s “day of” volunteer events, including the Day of Service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
On Friday, volunteers began assembling the food bags at 9:30 a.m. and planned to be finished by 12:30 p.m. But at 11 a.m., the last of the bags were loaded on the truck, the job already complete.
The truckload of 1,000 weekend meals was going to be delivered to the schools later that day, and will be enough to provide four weekends’ worth of meals for 250 children.
For information, visit unitedwaytriangle.org and foodshuttle.org.

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