How would you like to be part of preparing food for the hungriest children in the world? In fact, many of you already are, and there’s room for more!  

The Wilton Interfaith Action Committee (Wi-ACT) is doing its seventh annual all-day meal-packaging event on Saturday, Oct. 21. Wi-ACT is a consortium of the congregants of 11 Wilton faith institutions, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim. Wi-ACT’s partner in this work, top-rated nonprofit Stop Hunger Now Inc., has a new name: Rise Against Hunger Inc. (RAH).

Wi-ACT is going for 166,000 meals again, the full capacity for a one-day event of the facility it uses. Achieving that result means that another 450-plus children can be fed for an entire year in educational settings in which they are nourished in mind as well as in body. This October event in Wilton is now not only RAH’s largest meal-packaging event in all of New England but also one of its largest nationally. In the six years of Wi-ACT’s meal-packaging to date, over 750,000 meals have been packaged feeding more than 2,000 children for an entire year. In addition, at each year’s event, three SUVs are filled with volunteers’ donated food items (each volunteer is asked to bring a non-perishable item) for local food pantries.  This meal-packaging work is a great community-building experience even as it serves such a critically important need.

The meals cost Wi-ACT 29 cents per meal paid to RAH for a half-dozen different bulk ingredients (many delivered in 50-pound sacks) that are then mixed and poured into individual packages that are weighed, hermetically sealed, boxed, and put on pallets — all during the course of this one very full day.  

Wi-ACT needs your financial support to supplement that of its faith institutions and individual and corporate donors. To repeat at the 166,000-meal level, Wi-ACT is now $5,600 short of having enough ($48,140). Contributions may be made specifically for this Wilton event by going to this RAH link: http://bit.ly/2dkfLyC. Every penny contributed goes to paying for ingredients.

Watching the meal-packaging experience for the neediest in the world at work right here in Wilton is truly heartwarming (and has inspired similar events in the 10,000- to 20,000-meal range at Middlebrook School and Wilton High School). Seven hundred volunteers really enjoy themselves as they work hard together in 175-person shifts to the accompaniment of lively music and regular gong-ringing by one of the youngest volunteers that signals another 1,000 meals packaged toward that full-day goal.  Volunteers say of the event that it is “fun,” “fulfilling,” “joyful,” and “very satisfying to know what we’ve accomplished.” A high-energy two-hour shift can also certainly be tiring, yet more than a few families of volunteers now include out-of-town grandparents who come because they want the whole family to share in this experience.

The event on Saturday, Oct. 21, operates using four two-hour shifts: 9-11 a.m., 11 a.m.-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 may register at http://signup.com/go/AKXgBHs and choose your shift on that site as long as space remains available. Youth aged 13 and above may sign up on their own; children (as young as 6) should sign up with their parents.

Last October’s meals went to Haiti, and in previous years they’ve gone to sub-Saharan Africa, the Philippines, and Central America. In Haiti, RAH’s on-site partner is Convoy for Hope, and RAH 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. A portion of this year’s meals will also go toward replenishing meal reserves that were used by RAH in relief efforts on the Texas coast following Hurricane Harvey and in relief efforts following Hurricane Irma.

The set-up shift is staffed by Wilton’s Boy Scout Troop 125. At 7:30 a.m., Scouts begin moving the bulk ingredients and packaging-equipment contents of four RAH trucks. They’ll have full setup finished in time for the first shift to begin promptly at 9. Accomplishing that, as they’ve faithfully done for the past six years and are planning to do this year as well, assures that everything moves right on schedule through the day’s four two-hour packaging shifts.

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