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Newton church holds community meal-packing event

Victoria "Tori" Giordano stood next to a loading truck outside St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Newton during a community meal-packing event last month.Aidan Walsh

More than 100 volunteers gathered at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Newton last month for a community meal-packing event to address food insecurity around the world.

Volunteers packed nearly 13,000 meals at the event called “World Hunger Day Community Meal Packing” on Oct. 15, with help from the nonprofit Rise Against Hunger, an international hunger relief organization working to end world hunger in countries by holding community meal-packing events.

“People are looking for a way to make a difference in a small yet concrete way,” said the Rev. Ann Bonner-Stewart, the rector at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.

The church also collected bags of groceries and items from Amazon wishlists for the Newton Food Pantry, Bonner-Stewart said.

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Last year Rise Against Hunger packed over 17 million meals to countries such as Italy, India, Malaysia, South Africa, the Philippines, and other countries facing conflicts, natural disasters, or the effects of COVID-19, according to its website.

The event began with a megaphone introduction from New England event organizer Victoria “Tori” Giordano, who rang a bell and said, “Let’s get this party started!” as “Jump” by Van Halen was played over a speaker.

“Rise Against Hunger also figured out how to make the meal packing fun,” Bonner-Stewart said.

Sarah Doherty, a 13-year-old from Newton, worked alongside her mother, Kursten Doherty, at the labeling and boxing station.

“It’s not fair of us not to help others less fortunate,” she said.

The event also had stations for meal-packing and weight-measuring, each with about five volunteers.  In the end, the volunteers assembled more than 200 meal packs, each including enriched rice, soy protein, dried vegetables, and essential vitamins.

At the event, volunteers packed 60 boxes. Giordano said one box holds 36 meal packs — enough to feed a child for the duration of the school year.

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“It’s wonderful to donate food or items or money, but I like how Rise Against Hunger has an effective intergenerational event,” Bonner-Stewart said.

Volunteer Deborah Comer, who came to the event with her daughter and is a former Peace Corps volunteer, said she helped those affected by food insecurity in Senegal from 2002 to 2004.

“Taking time to help others is dear to my heart, and to share this with my daughter,” Comer, who is from Sudbury, said.

About a quarter of the volunteers were the church’s parishioners, Bonner-Stewart said, and the rest were people from the Newton community.

“We are providing for those who don’t know where the next meal is coming from,” Giordano said. “We would be nowhere without the help of our volunteers — we owe all of our success to them.”