2021 Meals of Hope Packaging Success

2021 Meals of Hope Packaging Success

When we think about Marco Island, Naples and Collier County in general we close our eyes and envision the sparkling high rises that adorn the golden beaches and the beautiful Gulf waters which lap up along Collier Boulevard, Hideaway Beach, Gordon Drive and north beyond Vanderbilt Beach.

This week many of those homes will see private jets park at the Naples Airport or out at the Marco Executive Airport and deplane the owners of those multimillion-dollar properties. They come here to enjoy a week under the golden sunshine here in Southwest Florida and feast on their Thanksgiving dinners and enjoy time with their families.

There is nothing wrong with that, they’ve earned the right to do it and it is part of the American dream. However, there is another segment of our population that is not so fortunate as many of those who chose to live here, and they too are part of our community.

As such, there are several wonderful organizations who have made it their goal to ensure that nutritional meals are available for those in need. This last weekend one such group, with the assistance of approximately 400 volunteers, assembled under the Greater Marco Island YMCA’S covered outdoor multi-use facility to package nutritional meals for families in need.

Meals of Hope was an effort which was begun by the Naples Rotary Club in 2007. Rotarian Steve Popper’s mother educated him to the connection of hunger with poor educational performance by school aged children in Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the Caribbean.

As the effort in Naples grew, Marco Island Rotarian Wayne Purvis would join with Popper and soon the Marco Clubs would join in on that effort to ensure those families living on or near Marco would benefit from the program. The program has since grown by leaps and bounds. The 2020 packaging event was dedicated in Purvis’ memory after his passing.

Just prior to COVID, the effort here on Marco was packaging 225,000 meals each year. Many of those meals were distributed directly to local Marco schools, including the Manatee Elementary and Middle Schools for year-round distribution by the Meals of Hope organization.

The meals packaged last weekend consist of fortified Macaroni and Cheese, as well as fortified Pasta and Tomato Sauce. These meals are fortified with 21 vitamins and minerals and a soy-based protein. Each package will feed up to six people.

On Saturday, November 20, approximately 400 volunteers from as far away as St. John Neumann, Marco’s two Rotary Clubs, the Kiwanians, Marco Island Academy, the Marco Men’s Club and many other organizations and families came together to pack nearly 160,000 meals. The two Rotary Clubs and the Kiwanis Club organize ‘After-Fives’ each year to raise the necessary monies to purchase the food materials for the annual packing event.

The event area is somewhat smaller than previous years, therefore reducing the number of meals which could be packaged. “We are very thankful for the YMCA’s assistance in allowing us to come in and hold the event here, both last year and this year,” said Bill Morris who holds the title of “Captain Hope” from the Sunrise Rotary Club. He, along with his “logistics chair” Eric Condee, who also wears the hat as President of the Sunrise Rotary Club, come together each year along with the many volunteers to insure a successful event.

If you’re seeking more information regarding the Meals of Hope organization or wish to donate simply go to www.mealsofhope.org.

Community Packs 100,000 Meals

Community Packs 100,000 Meals

WEST BRANCH, Iowa (KWWL) — Two hundred volunteers filled Herbert Hoover Elementary to pack 100,000 meals for those in need. The boxes will go to both Haiti and Iowa, and contain two different types of meals – pasta with red sauce or rice and beans. Each bag contains enough for six meals.

The Herbert Hoover Hunger Project is a partnership of the Hoover Presidential Foundation, West Branch Lions, and Meals for Hope. It’s named after former President Herbert Hoover, and based in his birthplace of West Branch, Iowa.

Their first event was back in 2014 where they packed over 84,000 meals. After a long pause, the former president’s own great-granddaughter Leslie Hoover-Lauble reached out to the Lions about reviving the project, which ignited the spark.

“She said ‘let’s do that again!’ and that gave us the spark plug we needed,” said project coordinator Greg Humrichouse.

A son of missionaries, Humrichouse lived in Kenya near a famine camp when he was five-years-old. He says the images of the starved children is part of what created his passion for helping the hunger crisis, in any way he could.

“I never became a millionaire so I couldn’t donate to the cause like I wanted, I wasn’t smart enough to invent a new grain product, but I could help organize an event that helps feed people.”

Meals of Hope partners with lots of organizations across the country, and holds events like this every weekend. Humrichouse says West Branch really stepped up to the table to help out this year, bringing a plate of food to strangers across the globe.

“I knew West Branch would come out to support to support it and they have,” he said.

Jewish Women’s Foundation Packs 25,000 Meals in One Morning

Jewish Women’s Foundation Packs 25,000 Meals in One Morning

GREAT BARRINGTON — On Sunday morning, Sept. 19, while many in the community were competing in the Josh Billings RunAground, 145 other local citizens gathered at the Berkshire South Regional Community Center to pack 25,000 Meals of Hope. The event was sponsored by the Jewish Women’s Foundation of the Berkshires (JWF), a constituent organization of the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires.

Meals of Hope (MOH) is a Naples, Florida-based organization that runs meal-packing events throughout the country. Each packed pouch, which contains dry ingredients that just need to be reconstituted with water, will provide dinner for a family of six to eight people. Cartons of pouches will be distributed to food pantries throughout the county by The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

Chair of the day was JWF board member Toby Kleban Levine, who first learned about Meals of Hope in Florida, where she has participated in several packing events. “I thought this would be a wonderful way for our JWF members to do something for the community. Steve Popper, MOH’s executive director, could not have been more helpful, and his assistant, Matt Dunfee, who was the point person from MOH on site on Sunday, was a fantastic partner and organizer.

“When we started thinking about this event,” said Levine, “we thought the packers would mostly come from our membership. But this quickly turned into a community effort, with volunteers from Construct, Berkshire Bounty, Berkshire South, Muddy Brook Elementary School, and a local hiking group joining JWF members. As a matter of fact, we had so many volunteers, that we created two shifts of workers and had to cajole the first shift to give up their slots so others could participate.”

Organized into six assembly lines, each captained by a JWF board member, tables soon became competitive to see which could finish their quota first, and as the filled cartons piled up against the wall, a sense of communal accomplishment was clearly evident. Assembly line captains Helice Picheny, Shirley Friedman Yohalem, Phyllis Cohen, Robin Weiser, Pommy Levy, and Jane Glaser trained the volunteers on their line, kept the tables stocked with ingredients, and cheered workers on throughout.

Liz Jaffe, JWF’s volunteer coordinator, and Anne Schnesel, a JWF board member, had the responsibility of checking in all the volunteers, who were required to wear masks, show vaccination cards, and once in the packing room, don gloves and hairnets. When the volunteers were thanked, it was not unusual for them to thank the organizers instead for the opportunity to do something hands-on for their neighbors.

“Established to help out Berkshire Community through charity and acts of kindness, JWF enables our members to pool financial resources and provide grants to help out neighbors in ways we could not as individuals,” said WJF co-chairs Phyllis Cohen and Robin Weiser. “This Meals of Hope project is especially satisfying: it enabled us to both provide meals for neighbors in need and to provide a hands-on experience for our members.”

In Judaism, this kind of work is called a mitzvah, or good deed.

Rotary Packs Over 300,000 Meals

Rotary Packs Over 300,000 Meals

WYE MILLS — Over 335,000 fully fortified meals were distributed to local food pantries this week by Rotary District 7630, which comprises Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. This was a “Rotary Day of Service” with Meals of Hope where 39 clubs packed meals in five locations around the district with all meals staying locally to fight food insecurity. There were many non-Rotarians that volunteered to help along with Interactors, Rotaract members and Rotary club members. The funds to buy the ingredients provided by Meals of Hope came from Rotary clubs, local community foundations and individuals.

Eight of those local Rotary clubs from the mid-shore area came together inside the auxiliary gymnasium at Chesapeake College, Saturday, Oct. 16, to pack a large portion of Meals of Hope for families in need in the immediate area. The eight Rotary clubs, which were from Kent, Queen Anne’s, Caroline, Talbot and Dorchester counties, packed 100,000 of the dry good meals into boxes.

The Rotary Club of Easton, sponsored 50,000 of those meals by itself in celebration of their recent 100th anniversary of existence.

This is not the first time local Rotary’s have had such events. According the Kent Island Rotary President Brad Lundberg, “We did a much smaller project with the Interact Club at Kent Island High School three years ago. (Interact Club in high schools follow the service patterns of Rotary International). In past years, the food has been sent overseas to third world countries, or prepared for emergency situations from natural disasters to send food to those locations in times of need. This time, all the foods are being distributed to local food banks and food pantries.”

Lundberg continued, “The food pantries have told us they’re not in dire need right now, but we all know that will change over the next two months, as prices continue to increase, not only at stores, but especially rising gasoline prices, fuel oil prices, etc. The need will come. All of the foods are packaged with expiration dates and directions on how to cook the foods. Most of the foods last up to a year, and some last up to two-years.”

Lundberg concluded, “We were all very pleased with the turnout of volunteers this past Saturday.” The Rotary motto is “Service Above Self”.

Heaping helping of hope

Heaping helping of hope

ASHLAND It was a bit of a party atmosphere at Greenup County High School, when students and other volunteers got together to assemble meals to be distributed throughout the community.

There was music, bells ringing and cheers when a box of meals was completed and sealed.

There also was a sense of community.

“It’s a good cause, to help people,” Chase Adkins, a senior at the school, said. “It makes you feel good about yourself because you’re helping others.”

Food came from Meals of Hope, a Florida-based food-packing agency with the goal of helping communities to feed residents with nutritious meals.

Social studies teacher Jill Armstrong, who is the advisor of the social studies honor society Rho Kappa, said she heard about Meals of Hope when attending a conference. She worked on bringing it to the school along with Carrie Davis, who advises the school’s Future Farmers of America chapter. They got in touch with Meals of Hope and it was a matter of time — and fundraising.

Armstrong said she’s not sure what the final total of their fundraising efforts was, but more than $9,000, and likely more than $10,000, was raised.

“What’s left over we will keep for the next time,” Armstrong said, noting she hopes the project will become a regular fixture at the school. “It averages out to 27 cents a meal.”

Schools in Greenup had “quarter wars” to raise money, managed by Greenup County High School’s student council with advisor Kameron Greenslate; winners were treated to treats from Chick-fil-A after students raised more than $3,000.

Meals of Hope offers five meal options. Armstrong said they chose pasta with tomato sauce.

“They have what they call a protein powder. It would almost remind you of uncooked oats,” Armstrong said. “You put it in the sauce to help supplement an unbalanced diet.”

Meals of Hope brought the supplies to the school, which arranged 12 tables in an assemby-line-style setup, which Armstrong said was extremely efficient.

“Student table leaders showed those at their tables how to do it,” she said, noting there were about 140 volunteers and the meals were packed for distribution in less than two hours.

“It was the most unreal experience ever,” Armstrong said. “It was fun. It didn’t really feel like work, and you know your work is going to help someone in the area. It might be someone you’re sitting in class with or someone you ride the bus with or someone you walk past in the mall.”

She said there were plans to package meals before the COVID-19 pandemic hit; the restrictions put it on hold, but she said she stayed in contact with Meals of Hope and once restrictions were loosed, they got back at it.

Meals went to a variety of destinations: churches, youth service centers and Armstrong said she believes Facing Hunger received some.

Meals of Hope typically gives $800 to organizations that raise $12,000; Greenup County High School was short by about $2,000, but Meals of Hope decided to give $400 in memory of Madison Blair, the 18-year-old student and Future Farmers of America member who was killed in a car accident in April.

“I’m so proud of our students and our district and the businesses that contributed so much more than we expected,” she said, adding the sense of community, service and leadership students gained by participating was invaluable. “We’re overwhelmed and grateful.”

Teenager raises funds, volunteers to package food for community

Teenager raises funds, volunteers to package food for community

PONTIAC, Ill. — Less than half an hour into a food packaging event she organized, Libby Larkin jumped up on a cooler high enough to see all her volunteers to congratulate them for already reaching 5,000 meals.

They knew they still had a long way to go to meet her goal of packaging 50,000 meals for local schools, daycares and food pantries, but volunteers cheered her on because they knew this 15-year-old powerhouse leader was going to make her goal.

Wearing a patriotic mask, blue rubber gloves, an FFA t-shirt and jeans, Libby went from table to table, making sure all the volunteers had what they needed.

She solved any problems as the volunteers put together almost 24,000 macaroni and cheese meals in the morning alone.

In the afternoon, volunteers packaged more than 26,000 cinnamon-diced apple oatmeal meals designed to provide an entire day’s nutrition.

“Sometimes one meal is all they will get in a day,” Libby said.

In all, about 150 volunteers packaged more than 50,400 meals on March 20 for people in this community in east central Illinois.

Leon Sporrer, event coordinator for Meals of Hope, the organization Libby worked with, has worked in 35 states for the group, which takes a hands-on approach to fighting hunger. It partners with volunteers who package the meals designed for extra nutritional value.

Sporrer has coordinated dozens of events like this, “but never one organized by a 15-year-old,” he said. “She’s beyond my favorite.”

Libby even wrote the grant, and it was approved on her first try, he said of the funding that made the event possible.

He was impressed with what a girl not even old enough to have her driver’s license could accomplish.

Together, the $10,000 Compeer Finances’ Fund for Rural America grant she received plus $2,500 she raised from local businesses and community members, funded the more than 50,000 meals.

The Pontiac Township High School sophomore, who is active in FFA, Key Club and 4-H, first developed an understanding of food needs when she was in grade school and helped with a 4-H project. After helping with a food pantry packing event in Bloomington, she was determined to do more.

“I always know where my next meal is coming from, but, unfortunately, not all kids do. Hunger is closer to home than many people realize,” she wrote in an appeal for volunteers. “Until I became involved with food packaging events, I didn’t know how many kids in my own community face hunger and food insecurity and do not have nutritious meals on a daily basis.”

Last year, hunger became a bigger problem for children who had been receiving free and reduced cost lunches at school, when schools switched to remote learning at least part of the time during pandemic restrictions, Libby said.

The meals put together at her event will go to schools, Boys & Girls Clubs and church food pantries in Livingston County.

“I want to help kids in my own community,” she said at the event.

It was clear that a number of her friends felt the same way, as dozens of teenagers helped with the work. The youth factor was evident with FFA, Key Club, 4-H members and friends from student council and sports teams all measuring and packaging together. They were joined by community members —from preschoolers to seniors.

It was certainly a family affair too, with her parents, grandmother and brother all playing a role. Libby’s brother works for Precision Planting in Pontiac, where the event was held. But she secured the venue — the large new Precision Technology Institute building just off Interstate 55 — by talking with Jason Webster, the lead agronomist at the institute.

The ag company donated the space for the effort, she said. It seemed the perfect place to assemble food, in a building that is all about agriculture.

“It’s pretty amazing to see how much she gets involved,” said her father, Dale Larkin, a parts manager at Stoller. He also farms about 600 acres of corn and soybeans.

Her mom Jenny, business manager at Institute for Human Resources, and her grandma Penny Lauritzen, recently named to Hall of Fame for the Illinois Society of Professional Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers and known for her support of youth and rural issues, were packers but also helped get the word out about Libby’s project.

“Grandma is Libby’s biggest fan,” her dad said.

Like her family, Libby sees herself in a future career related to agriculture in a role that helps people.

She, in turn, inspires those younger than she is. Emmett Richardson, at age four one of the youngest volunteers, became an expert label sticker by the end of the morning. He worked side by side with his mom, Kayla Harder, and his dad, Jared Richardson.

“Libby is our next door neighbor. She’s a helper so we do what we can to help her,” Harder said.