Enough meals to feed residents of a town nearly six times the size of Norfolk were packed on Sunday at the DeVent Center.
Rhonda Wrenholt, director of Mercy Meals in Norfolk, said volunteers prepared 145,734 meals for shipment during the organization’s annual Pack Away Hunger event. The first of the event’s three sessions began at 10 a.m., and the third and final session wrapped up by 3:30 p.m.
“It was exciting to hear everyone commenting that they couldn’t believe how quickly the time flew for each packing session and how enjoyable it was,” Wrenholt said.
Mercy Meals is a nonprofit organization that allows volunteers to package nourishing food that will be delivered by the Orphan Grain Train to children in need — such as those in Haiti — throughout the world.
For the past 12 years, the organization regularly has hosted groups of volunteers at its Norfolk headquarters on Madison Avenue to package healthy meal starters that include a cup of soy flakes, chicken flavoring with 20 vitamins and minerals, a tablespoon of dried vegetables and a cup of white rice.
The annual Pack Away Hunger event reflects what happens at its Madison Avenue location but on a larger scale. Nearly 700 volunteers from around Northeast Nebraska were drawn to the DeVent Center on Sunday to participate.
Groups of about 10 people from local and area churches, organizations and businesses formed teams to pack meals in one of three 90-minute sessions. Northeast Community College’s men’s basketball team and women’s softball team, as well as students from Norfolk High School’s Alternatives for Success and National Honor Society, helped out with the event as well.
Wrenholt said she was grateful to all of the people who volunteered to work at the event, as well as those who donated financially and to everyone who traveled to “help us fight world hunger and to reverse malnutrition globally.”
While Mercy Meals’ efforts have reached more than 20 countries, the meals packed on Sunday will be shipped to feed hungry people in Ghana and Guatemala, Wrenholt said.
The next Pack Away Hunger event will take place in October 2020, but individuals or groups that are interested in helping at Mercy Meals can call 402-649-6401 to schedule a packing session at its downtown location.