Originally posted at http://www.wickedlocal.com/sudbury/news/x609791269/Sudbury-churches-help-feed-the-hungry#axzz2X4iIknp4

Church Volunteers Package Thousands of Meals for Area Food Shelves  Rev. Tom O’Brien

Over 60 volunteers from Sudbury’s Memorial Congregational Church and St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church worked together to package almost 8,000 meals for hungry families in our region. Courtesy photo by Jack Mohr.

Middlesex County is the hungriest county in New England.  When presented with this sobering fact, Rev. Tom O’Brien, Pastor at Memorial Congregational Church (United Church of Christ) and Karen LaCure, Director of Youth and Family Ministry at St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church were determined to mobilize their congregations to do something about it.

The two faith communities paired up to work with Kids Care, the New England arm of Outreach, Inc.  Working with regional manager Rev. Matthew Martin, MCC and St. John initiated a grassroots effort to raise money and organize volunteers to purchase and package shelf-stable, nutritional food to donate to local food pantries.  The food, supplied by Outreach, Inc, is a patent pending nutritious macaroni and cheese meal that has been tested and proven to be much more nutritious that the common store-bought mac and cheese.  Each packet feeds up to six people for a cost of only 25 cents per serving.

The first step was to raise funds to purchase the meals.  On Super Bowl Sunday, each congregation participated in a “Souper Bowl of Caring” collection to raise awareness and funds for food insecure families in our area.  St. John gathered and donated 195 nonperishable food items for the Acton Food Pantry while MCC collected 213 items for the Sudbury Community Food Pantry.  Together, the two churches raised over $1000, including $250 donated by Thrivent Financial, and were able to purchase 4000 meals from Outreach.

Then the time came to put the money and the volunteers to work.  After the worship service, with Rev. Martin’s leadership, more than 60 volunteers gathered in MCC’s Ames Hall to begin packaging food.  Four assembly lines were set up and staffed with 12 volunteers each.  Over the next hour and a half, the volunteers scooped, poured, weighed, and sealed all 4,000 meals that had been purchased.  But they weren’t finished yet.  Throughout the event, the money continued to flow.  Enough funds were raised to buy more than 3,000 additional meals.  When the funnels had finally run dry, a total of 7,830 meals had been assembled, packaged, and boxed up.  The meals will be donated to the Sudbury Community Food Pantry and other food pantries in the region where they will be available to some of the more than 132,000 people (including 39,000 children) who struggle to put food on the table each day.

Volunteers from many generations worked together to packaged shelf stable meals to donate to local food pantries. Courtesy photo by Jack Mohr.

In addition to the local impact, Rev. Martin also sold $425 of handcrafts made by women in the Singida Region of East Africa.  The funds go directly to the women to provide safe food, water, medical care and education.  The crafts are also available at store.outreachprogram.org.

Members and friends from St. John and MCC found the experience moving and well worthwhile.  It was seen as a great way to put faith into action and to make a real contribution to families in our town and region.  Plans are already underway for more events.  Sixty volunteers packaged almost 8,000 meals in only an hour and a half, could enough Sudbury residents come together for a town wide event to package 375,000 meals in honor of Sudbury’s 375th anniversary in 2014?  With your help, members of MCC and St. John think that just might be possible.  Won’t you join us?