The volunteer effort to pack 500,000 meals – and how you can join

How do you pack half a million meals for school children?

One at a time.

But when you have amazing IRUSA volunteers working from coast to coast, it adds up fast.

Volunteer manager Said Durrah has set an ambitious goal for volunteers across the country: to pack 500,000 meals in 2018, enough to fill two 40-foot shipping containers. So far, on the first day of packouts in two states simultaneously, volunteers packed 30,000 of them in just about two hours.

Durrah has planned at least 35 packouts in 15 cities this year—and you’re invited. The next packouts are scheduled for the weekend of August 11 in California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

The meals will help feed children and their families worldwide so the children can concentrate on attending school to further their education rather than leaving school to help their families find their next meal.

“These meals are packets of hope—packets of opportunity,” said Nick DiMare, community engagement manager of Rise Against Hunger, which aims to end hunger by 2030 by sending food around the world. IRUSA is working with Rise Against Hunger on this project.

DiMare explains that it’s more than just a meal—this project supports children’s education. These meals often go to schools. When children have food to eat at school, they are more likely to be able to attend. When they stay in school, they can grow up to get better jobs, and that gives them a much better chance of leaving poverty and hunger behind.

Durrah is happy IRUSA volunteers can help kids stay in school in this hands-on way.

“It’s awesome for a volunteer to pack [a meal] right here in our neighborhoods … and to realize that this effort will then reach someone living in hunger on the other side of the world, alhamdulillah!” he said.

The meals are packets of rice with soy, dehydrated vegetables and vitamins added.

’That sounds like a pretty bland meal, and it is, but that’s because we cater to all these different countries,” DiMare said. “Imagine the massive amount of tastebuds that means.”

So the recipients often use them as a meal base. As they add water and cook the food, they often add more ingredients like chicken, beans, or local spices.

“There are hundreds if not thousands of ways to make these meals,” DiMare said. “I’ve seen it in Belize where they have separated the rice and soy and then they made a soy paste to put over it with garlic and oil. They have separated the rice and soy and made soy patties. So many different ways.”

“And even if you have these meals bland, they are still a pretty good meal. It has all the nutrition needed for your day.”

The packouts are family-friendly events—even children can help.

Ready to get involved? Find the full schedule for the packouts at irusa.org/mealpack – just search for your state and click on a date to sign up.

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