On any given day, there are 43,000 people in Plymouth County who don’t know where their next meal will be coming from.
An Abington church will be pitching in to meet those needs by packaging food for up to 100,000 meals this Saturday, Nov. 17.
“They are in your neighborhood and are all around the area,” said Jeffrey Stone, a coordinator for the food packing event to be held at Joy in Christ Lutheran Church. “We are packaging three meals. We will be preparing minestrone soup. We are doing a tomato and basil pasta, and we are preparing a meal of cinnamon oatmeal.”
He said 240 volunteers from the community will be assisting church members with packing the meals for distribution to food pantries in Brockton, Bridgewater, Pembroke, Hanson, Hanover, Hull, Plymouth and Carver.
“Brockton and Plymouth have a lot of underserved people,” Stone said. “They will get a lot of meals. There is a backpack program in Brockton where they send food home from schools in kids’ backpacks on a Friday afternoon. It is hard to believe that exists.”
Stone said the idea to assist Plymouth County food pantries came about during a meeting of church members.
“This is the very first time we have done this,” he said. “During the spring, we got together and said, instead of thinking internally about what is going on in our church, we should start thinking about what is going on outside in the community. We went out and talked to a lot of local and civic leaders, religious leaders, and education leaders in Abington and Whitman to get a sense of what the needs are. We heard what the needs are, and realized what we can do. We said, let’s try to think big, and we can scale back.”
Stone said the church received approximately $20,500 from community donors during the past several months, to buy raw food for the meals from The Outreach Program, a non-profit agency in Union, Iowa.
“There are five different types of meals they provide raw food for, and that includes corn and wheat,” he said. “A group of 12 people can package about 4,000 meals per hour. That is what we will be doing.”
Stone said the church became aware of local food pantry needs while providing canned groceries last year to the Abington Food Bank, which is located at St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic outreach ministry.
“Last year for Thanksgiving, our church did a canned food drive and we brought in 500 pounds of food and delivered it to the Abington Food Pantry,” he said. “There was nothing on the shelves. The food pantry had emptied out the week before Thanksgiving.”
Stone said organizers of the food collection effort decided it would be best to replenish the various food pantries after Thanksgiving.
“We decided we will do the packaging the weekend before Thanksgiving, and have everything delivered to replenish the shelves of Plymouth County food pantries so they will have food on their shelves when they open for business,” he said.
Stone said Joy in Christ Lutheran Church has 25 members and the food packaging event has been an eye opener as to what a small group of people can do.
“There are a ton of volunteers from the church,” he said. “This is not a one-person event. There are a lot of people who are helping me to get it organized and with the fundraising. This has been a great event for the church. Some people think big and some people don’t think big. You can do a lot of minds when you put your mind and energy behind it. This is a great example of that.”
Stone said a genesis church tends to look at what it can do for their members in need.
“We changed that view as to, what can we do for the community around us,” he said. “That is what churches are supposed to do. If we can feed close to 100,000 people, that will be absolutely phenomenal. Inasmuch as how the church started this, it is a community event. We have teams of volunteers from Abington and Whitman high schools. We have other church groups assisting. We have Brownie Girl Scouts from Bridgewater that are helping. We have people from all over Plymouth County coming to help by sending donations or signing up to volunteer at the packaging. It truly is a community event.”
Stone said organizers of the food packaging effort have enough financial donations and volunteers.
“This has been a grass roots thing,” he said. “So many people have said, ‘I’m in.’ I’m at a stage where I can’t fit more volunteers and I will have to think about a having larger venue for more people. It looks like this could be the second or third biggest outreach in the state.”
Additional information about the food packaging program is available on the church website, jicchurch.org/food-packaging-event.html.