Browsing The Northern Cross

St. James Catholic Church youth and parishioners package 50,000 meals 

By Jen Kinzer 
Guest columnist 

On April 1, 162 volunteers gathered at St. James Catholic Church in Aitkin to package 50,000 meals for the Cross Catholic Outreach Organization for starving people in Central America.

(Submitted photo)

Why Cross Catholic Outreach? In November 2022, a visiting priest from Cross Catholic Outreach spoke about the organization and the great things they do all over the world to help others through their ministry. From that presentation was born an idea: “Could we hold a food packaging event at our parish? What a great way to serve God and teach our youngest parishioners about the poor and starving of the world.” The St. James religious education program took that idea and with the mantra, “We don’t know if we can unless we try” began to make an idea into a reality.

How do you get to the point where you are able to package meals for 50,000? To bring the event to Aitkin, a minimum of $13,200 was needed, which would allow 40,000 meals to be packaged. We formed a committee, sought permission from Father Mike Patullo and the Finance Council, and began planning how to raise funds for this worthy cause. We planned a Christmas concert in December and asked businesses for sponsorships. We also planned a breakfast in late January and a pie sale fundraiser in March. The date of April 1 was chosen because it was an available date during the season of Lent. 

Through the generosity of many businesses, parishioners, and community members, as well as the success of the Christmas concert, we reached our goal on Jan. 9. The decision was made to keep our next two scheduled fundraisers (breakfast and pie sale) as we could add to the number of meals to package. The total raised as of April 1 was $16,914, which allowed us to tack on an additional 10,000 meals for a total of 50,000 meals! 

What is involved in packaging 50,000 meals? Committee members arrived the night before the packing event to set tables and make sure the room was ready for the packing event. Each package contained rice, beans, soy, dried vegetables, and a vitamin packet. A filled package contains enough food for six meals. Twelve tables of eight to ten people packaged 8,316 packets in about two hours! We also spent about an hour afterward packing things away and cleaning up.

(Submitted photo)

Volunteers were not only youth but many parishioners as well. Volunteers ranged in age from age 2 to adults in their 80s and 90s. Everyone had a job and worked together to finish the packing in a short time. On Monday, April 8, five pallets containing 231 boxes were loaded onto a semi to be combined with food from other food packing events to feed the hungry in Central America. (We are unsure exactly where our packaged food will be used but it will probably go to Guatemala or the Dominican Republic.) 

The food packing event accomplished many things for our parish. It taught our parish youth about hungry people throughout the world, helped our parish unite and work together as people of God, gave our parish an extra opportunity to participate in almsgiving during Lent, and most importantly, it was a great way to serve God. We are truly blessed as a parish for the generosity of our parishioners, our community, and our volunteers. 

If you are interested in learning more about a food packing event through Cross Catholic Outreach, contact Melissa Kaufenberg from Cross Catholic Outreach at [email protected]. 

Jen Kinzer is director of religious education for St. James Catholic Church, Aitkin.