United Way volunteers prepare 40,000 food packages

When she first attended the chamber coffee for the Fremont Area United Way’s Food Packaging Day four years ago, Christy Fiala had some doubts that that was what the community was in need of.

But while she was picking up her kids from school soon after, Fiala saw a man asking the secretary if she could put some food bags in his kids’ backpacks.

“And I just really thought at that moment, ‘Oh, that was wrong of me to doubt this. I’m so glad that gentleman had that food. I’m just so glad Fremont does this,’” said Fiala, now the United Way’s executive director. “I think a lot of other people don’t need that much clarity to have their awareness, but I did. So it was really great for me that I doubted.”

United Way prepared 40,000 food packages at its sixth annual Food Packaging Day at First Lutheran Church last Friday.

The event had over 250 volunteers in an assembly line packaging the meals, which were then shipped to local organizations for distribution.

According to Feeding America, one in nine adults and one in five children in Dodge County are food insecure. Fiala said these families worry about getting food as well as rent, gas and hygiene products.

“It’s just a balancing act,” she said. “It’s not a security that there’s always food there and there’s always money for that food.”

This year’s packaging day was the first for Fiala, who has been executive director for four months. She said the event always starts with a chamber coffee at 9 a.m.

“That’s great, because we get a lot of people there to do the kick-off and explain what we’re doing,” Fiala said.

Fiala said United Way was able to purchase $9,000 worth of food items from its sponsors in the community. The meals are bought for about 22 or 23 cents each, she said.

Starting at 9:30 a.m., volunteers from various groups like WholeStone Farms, Methodist Fremont Health and the Fremont Family YMCA packaged food for distribution. Members of the Midland University baseball team helped with setup and tear-down of the area.

The volunteers packaged 20,000 bags of pasta with red sauce and 20,000 bags of rice and beans. Each bag is able to feed about a family of four, Fiala said.

The volunteers worked in four shifts, with group sizes depending on who was available from the organization to work, Fiala said.

“RTG (Medical) had two groups going at the same time there,” she said. “So everybody is able to do what they can, and it’s awesome.”

After packaging the food, the food is then sent to organizations and churches in the area such as LifeHouse’s Thriftology, the Salvation Army and the Fremont Public Schools Backpack Program.

Often times, getting this food is a challenge for many of these organizations, Fiala said.

“Every year when we start to put it together, we contact the organizations that we sent the food to, and they’re out,” she said. “So it’s clearly needed yearly, it’s clearly used throughout the year.

Fiala said she was glad that United Way has been able to provide for these organizations, which she said always have been willing to accept more than they are provided.

“I’m proud that we’re able to do this, and it’s needed,” she said. “It’s just needed.”