Credit: Rev. Shannon White

Every year, the Wilton community rallies for one of the most uplifting volunteer experiences, packaging meals for Rise Against Hunger. More than 700 volunteers turn out annually to help the non-profit organization’s effort to help food insecure communities, and once again, the Wilton Interfaith Action Committee (Wi-ACT) is hoping residents will volunteer to participate in a year that will see Wilton package its one-millionth meal.

This year’s meal packaging effort is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 20, and takes place at WEPCO (48 New Canaan Rd.).

Wilton is now in its 8th year working for Rise Against Hunger (formerly Stop Hunger Now). Last year the community packaged over 160,000 meals that were sent to Haiti. Since the community started, it has put together a total of 945,000 meals, and this year is sure to exceed the 1,000,000 meal mark.

Both volunteers and donations are needed to make the effort work. Each meal costs $0.29, so $1.45 buys 5 meals, $15 buys 52 meals and $100 buys 345 meals. Wi-ACT buys the bulk ingredients from Rise for each highly nutritious meal at 29 cents per meal; so the event costs Wi-ACT around $48,000 per year. Every dollar raised goes to paying for the ingredients. Our funding comes from Wilton faith institutions and generous individual and corporate donors.

The meals will be sent to children in developing countries, to serve the most needy at the present time, typically in Haiti and sub-Saharan Africa. The 160,000 meals Wilton typically produces feed 450 children for an entire year in educational settings where they can be nourished in mind as well as in body. Rise Against Hunger also helps assisted communities with projects aimed at providing clean water and assistance in establishing self-sustaining long-term projects in both agriculture and fishing—including even fish farming.

Nonprofit Rise Against Hunger, Inc. does meal-packaging around the country, and Wilton is one of the largest of their events—it is the largest annual one in all of New England. 

Volunteers have the opportunity to sign up for one of several two-hour meal production shifts, as well set up, and clean up shifts. Often families will volunteer together, and in fact children 7-years-old and up can take part.

Wi-ACT chair Stephen Hudspeth says that volunteers do not need to be part of a Wilton faith community to take part.

“This meal-packaging event is open to everyone, and we have a number of organizations participating as a group–like the Boy Scouts (both Troop 125 and Troop 20, with the former doing the set-up shift and the latter doing the cleanup shift) and Girl Scouts, Kiwanis, Rotary and several of our larger corporate sponsors (who like to use it as a team-building event as well as, of course, for the good their work does for those whom the meals serve).”

Wilton teen Lily Kepner says volunteering for Rise Against Hunger has left an indelible impression.

“Rise Against Hunger has taught me about leadership, dedication and true purposeful work. I grew up attending Stop Hunger Now events and couldn’t imagine a more welcoming, supportive and joyful community:  music blasting, kids lining up to hit the gong to mark the next milestone, work stations dancing while packaging more than a meal a minute, it was incredible to my young eyes. My sophomore year along with two other students I decided to plan a Stop Hunger Now Event at the high school in December in hopes of making a small impact in lives so different from ours, and giving high schoolers a chance to participate and give back. In the end we packaged 1,260 meals, raised around $1,300 to do so, and gathered over 80 community and town members to participate. It is a day I will remember forever, and I am so glad to have taken the chance and made that impact. I’m so looking forward to the event on Oct. 20.”

Ellie Haljun, another Wilton teenager, agrees with how moving an experience volunteering at the event is.

“The most powerful part of the experience for me is how everyone is coming together. It doesn’t matter what your faith is or even if you go to church; we’re all just trying to help people less fortunate than us. There’s such an amazing community surrounding Rise Against Hunger, and it is so worth the time. Not only are we helping people, we have great fun doing it!”

For more information about volunteering, or to sign up, visit the Wi-ACT Rise Against Hunger sign-up webpage.

UPDATE:  The story has been updated with a volunteer sign up link.