A View from Glen Hill: A massive effort to stop hunger

It’s really exciting to see kids as young as 6 and 7 throwing themselves wholeheartedly into a project aimed at doing good for other children in desperate need.

There were a number of those young volunteers at the Stop Hunger Now meal-packaging event last year. The event was organized by Wilton Interfaith Action Committee (WI-ACT), a consortium of 10 Wilton faith institutions, Christian, Jewish and Muslim. WI-ACT’s motto is “We act together for good.”

The event was so well-received it is being done again this year — on Saturday, Oct. 27th from 8 to 6. Volunteers will again work in four shifts throughout the day and sign up for a shift on the website run by WI-ACT for members of the 10 congregations. WI-ACT’s steering committee of two dozen members from its 10 faith institutions provides the overall leadership. It is planning on packaging 100,000 meals this year, which is the one-day meal-packaging capacity of the Parish Hall at the WEPCO Church Complex at 36 New Canaan Road where the work is done.

Last year the event took place on Oct. 29th — the Saturday of the first of the two early snow-and-ice storms that caused so much damage. Yet even as the snow was falling, 400 volunteers streamed into that parish hall to do this packaging work over the course of the day, beginning in the early morning and continuing right through to late afternoon. Working in two-hour shifts they packaged 76,500 meals, enough to feed 200 starving children for a year.

WI-ACT partners in this work with Stop Hunger Now, Inc. (SHN), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a top Charity Navigator rating and global reach. SHN’s objective is to provide meals to starving children in an educational setting where the food is a magnet for coming for the education, and the students are nourished in both mind and body.

The highly nutritious meals that are packaged are consolidated and then delivered by SHN wherever the need is greatest around the world at the time the packaging work is done. That usually means sub-Saharan Africa but can also include Haiti, portions of Central and South America, and the Far East. WI-ACT has the opportunity this year to designate the delivery destination from among those being supplied by SHN in the November-December time frame.

Events like WI-ACT’s are conducted by SHN all over our country, often on college campuses (and in other parts of the world, including a million-meal packaging event in Malaysia last year!) However, this and last year’s WI-ACT events represent the first time a large group of faith institutions from one community have come together to do a SHN event. SHN and WI-ACT are both hopeful this “Wilton model” will be replicated by other communities with their own faith institutions — or in other settings where people from many different, and not necessarily otherwise intersecting, groups come together to do something very special for the greater good.

And those six- and seven-year-old volunteers help significantly as, for example, by carrying filled meal packages from the ingredient-mixing work-stations to the weighing, sealing, and boxing lines. The energy on the packaging floor is extraordinary, with volunteers from these first- and second-graders on up to high school youth, their parents, and right through to senior citizens all working side-by-side to the beat of lively music and with a loud gong marking the completion of each 1,000 meals packaged. Each shift aims for a mixture of age groups and congregational affiliation, and the training of volunteers on site before each shift begins is framed not only in terms of doing specific required tasks but also in terms of how what these volunteers are doing serves truly pressing needs — with many specific examples of the needs met as meals like these do their work around the world.

WI-ACT’s faith institutions are working on coming up with the extra funds for ingredient costs required to do the higher number of meals this year, though it is a stretch for them. WI-ACT has asked its faith institutions’ youth groups to help with reaching that higher goal this year with their own fund-raisers and has also reached out to others in the broader Wilton community to help as they can.

The whole day models for those six- and seven-year-olds, as it does for all who volunteer, what it means to be a person of faith who tries his or her best to live out that faith in action for the good of others, wherever they may be.

Mr. Hudspeth lives on Glen Hill Road.