WILKES-BARRE — There will be a makeshift assembly line with little elbow room but plenty of elbow macaroni Saturday for the United Way of Wyoming Valley’s “Mac & Cheese & ABCs Food Packing Event” that aims to prepare 46,000 meals for needy families.
The inaugural event, to be held 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Salvation Army on Pennsylvania Avenue, is the “largest meal-packing event in the United Way’s history,” United Way CEO Bill Jones said Wednesday.
“Sadly, nearly one in four children under the age of 18 in the Wyoming Valley are living in poverty,” Jones said. “Children can’t learn when they’re hungry. As the school year starts, our goal is to not only provide access to quality meals, it is to bring awareness and advocacy to this critical need.”
The meals will also be offered to other local agencies and partners that serve area children, including Luzerne County Head Start, the Catholic Youth Center, Child Development Council, Maternal Family Health Services, Wyoming Valley Children’s Association, Volunteers of America and the Center of the Village.
More than 130 volunteers are already scheduled to participate, and Jones said more are welcome. The deadline for volunteers to register to help is Friday morning, Jones said. Interested volunteers can email Amy Marie Feldman at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 829-6711, ext. 232.
The Mac & Cheese is a product created and supplied by the non-profit group Meals of Hope (http://meals-of-hope.org/) and the effort is sponsored by Land O’Lakes and Lord & Taylor. The event is a project of the Women’s Leadership Club.
Participants will be trained and supervised on how to package the Mac & Cheese that is fortified with soy protein and 21 additional vitamins and minerals. Jones said some of the volunteers’ duties include pouring the ingredients into bags, weighing and sealing bags, boxing the packed bags and placing the boxes on pallets.
Jones said the room will be set up like a huge assembly line with volunteers packing the ingredients in boxes. He said the meals will be distributed to local families in need as determined by the agencies involved in the project.
“We’re excited about this,” he said. “We’ve never tried anything this big before, so we welcome volunteers and we we are anxious to see this through.”
“Next week, schools throughout the Wyoming Valley will be welcoming back students to their classrooms,” Jones said. “As our United Way campaign kicks off and the school year starts, there is no better time to talk about the investment we make in our children’s’ safety, education and health. Hunger impacts health and education, and it is an issue that affects far too many children.”
The United Way helps fund 46 programs in 25 member agencies. Jones said the organization is more than a fundraising institution, funding effective programs that improve many lives in the community.
The agency kicked off its annual campaign earlier this month. More than $4.1 million was raised last year.