Watching the meal-packaging experience for the neediest in the world at work right here in Wilton has been truly inspiring and heartwarming over these past six years! You see volunteers really enjoying themselves as they work hard together to the accompaniment of lively music and regular gong-ringing by one of the youngest volunteers that signals another 1,000 meals packaged towards the all-day goal of 165,000 meals.  

Each fall, the Wilton Interfaith Action Committee (Wi-ACT) conducts its all-day meal-packaging event. This year’s event is on Saturday, Oct. 22 with four two-hour shifts: 9-11 a.m., 11-1 p.m., 1-3 p.m., and 3-5 p.m. at the WEPCO Church Complex, 36 New Canaan Road. Volunteering for this meal-packaging work is open to everyone. You can register at http://signup.com/go/PgTVhZ and choose your shift on that site as long as space remains available in each shift. Youth aged 13 and above can sign up on their own; children (as young as 6) should sign up with their parents.  

Wi-ACT does this work in conjunction with highly rated nonprofit Stop Hunger Now, Inc. (SHN). The 165,000-meal goal represents the maximum facility capacity for a one-day event and means that more than 450 children will be fed for an entire year in educational settings where they are nourished in mind as well as in body. Wilton’s is now not only SHN’s largest meal-packaging event in all of New England but also one of its largest nationally. In the five years of Wi-ACT’s meal-packaging to date, 612,000 meals have been packaged feeding a total of 1,675 children for an entire year. In addition, each volunteer is also asked to bring a nonperishable item for local food pantries; last year, three SUVs were filled with volunteers’ donated food items going to food pantries in Bridgeport and Norwalk as well as in Wilton.  

Last October’s 164,800 meals went to Haiti, and in previous years they’ve gone to sub-Saharan Africa, the Philippines, and Central America. In Haiti, SHN’s on-site partner is Convoy for Hope, and Stop Hunger Now is noted for its very careful vetting of on-site partners for the quality of their work and for their focus on educating as well as feeding children, serving the poorest of the poor.   

With 750 Wi-ACT volunteers participating in those two-hour shifts to do this meal-packaging work, there is a great spirit generated by this enormous community effort, and the experience of working together in this way is reflected in words heard from volunteers about their meal-packaging work, including "well organized," "fun," "fulfilling," "joyful," “very satisfying to know what we accomplished,” and "high-energy."  In fact, more than a few families of “veteran” volunteers decided to include their grandparents from out of town in the packaging work last year because they wanted the whole family to share in the experience together!    

The set-up shift is staffed by Wilton’s Boy Scout Troop 125.  At 7:15 a.m., the scouts begin unloading bulk ingredients and packaging equipment from three SHN trucks.  Their objective is to have full set-up finished in time for the first shift to begin promptly at 9. Accomplishing that, as they have faithfully done for the past five years and are planning to do this sixth year as well, assures that everything moves right on schedule.  

So, this work is a big community-building experience even as it serves such a critically important need. The meals cost Wi-ACT 29 cents per meal paid to SHN for the bulk ingredients (many delivered in 50-pound sacks) that are then mixed and poured into individual packages that are weighed, sealed, boxed, and palletized — all during the course of this one very full day.  

Wi-ACT greatly welcomes your financial support to meet its meal-packaging objective, which at the 165,000-meal level is $48,000. One hundred percent of the funds raised go to cover the cost of the ingredients that are purchased by Wi-ACT at that 29-cents-per-meal amount. Wi-ACT’s meal-packaging contributors include its 10 Wilton faith institutions plus local businesses and generous individuals and foundations.  Wi-ACT is currently about $4,000 short of its funding goal when financing from all these sources is combined. Many have asked how they can contribute, and contributions can be made specifically for this Wilton event by clicking here and noting in the comment section “for Wilton SHN event.”

Whether volunteering for a shift or contributing financially (or both), your support means the world and reflects a very special part of who we are as a caring, engaged, and can-do community.