Each year, the Wilton Interfaith Action Committee (Wi-ACT) conducts an all-day meal-packaging event in Wilton in late October. This year’s event is on Saturday, Oct. 22. It’s one of the most meaningful, memorable and life-changing charitable events in which the entire family can take part to help others in a way that brings the whole community together.

Last year, volunteers at Wilton’s event packaged 165,000 meals, and the organization has set the same goal for this year. Hitting that goal would feed 450 children for an entire year in educational settings where they are nourished in mind as well as in body. The event brings together 750 volunteers, and Wilton’s effort is not only Stop Hunger Now’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.

Participants can choose a shift when registering online. Families can register online (children as young as 6 years old are able to participate); youth aged 13-and-above are able to sign up on their own if preferred. The meals packaged serve children in educational settings wherever in the world the need is greatest at the time of the event. The work is done in conjunction with the highly rated nonprofit Stop Hunger Now, Inc.

Each volunteer is also asked to bring a nonperishable item for local food pantries; last year, volunteers donated three filled-to-capacity van-loads with donated food items that went to food pantries in Bridgeport and Norwalk as well as in Wilton.

“With 750 volunteers participating in two-hour shifts to do this meal-packaging work, we also felt the spirit generated by an enormous community effort, and the experience of working together in this way was reflected in words we heard from volunteers about their meal-packaging work, including ‘well organized,’ ‘fun,’ ‘fulfilling,’ ‘joyful,’ ‘very satisfying to know what we accomplished,’ and ‘high-energy,’” says Stephen Hudspeth, who chairs Wi-ACT. “In fact, we were told by more than a few families of ‘veteran’ volunteers that they decided to include their grandparents from out of town in the packaging work this year because they wanted the whole family to share in the experience together!”

This work is a huge community-building experience, even as it serves such an important need. The experience is open to everyone in the community regardless of religious affiliation (or absence of any affiliation). The meals cost Wi-ACT 29-cents per meal for the bulk ingredients (many delivered in 50-pound sacks). The ingredients are then mixed and poured into individual packages, and weighed, sealed, boxed, and palletized–all during the course of one very full day.

Wi-ACT also needs and greatly welcomes financial support to meet the funding goal in order to stage the effort, which at the 165,000 meal level is almost $50,000. Wi-ACT’s meal-packaging contributors include ten faith institutions plus local businesses, generous individuals and foundations. All-told, 100-percent of the funds raised go to cover the cost of bulk ingredient purchases at 29-cents per meal.

Work is done in 2-hour shifts:  9-11 a.m., 11 a.m.-1 p.m., 1-3 p.m., and 3-5 pm.  Participants can register online