A food desert. I’m told I live in an area of Indianapolis that is considered a food desert, which refers to “…a substantial number or share of residents with low levels of access to retail outlets selling healthy and affordable foods…”1 There are two soup kitchens in my neighborhood, sandwiched between beautiful houses and public & private schools. On my way home from work, I pass people every day asking for money for food. Although I don’t feel the effects of the food desert inside my own home, it is a reality for many of my neighbors who live in our socio-economically diverse, urban area.

So when I received an email asking for volunteers to join the Rotary Club of Indianapolis to prepare meals for Pack Away Hunger, I was immediately interested. Pack Away Hunger is an organization that works with groups who want to host a “packing event” which results in meal packages assembled and then distributed to local sites who provide food to those in need. It’s amazing to consider that a single meal through Pack Away Hunger costs only $0.27!

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The event began with a light lunch, a few comments from Rotarian speakers, and then we rolled up our sleeves, donned our hairnets (and for some men even beard nets), and got down to business. We were organized into groups of 10 with an efficient assembly-line approach to preparing the bags that would create 5-serving meals. I was lucky enough to participate with two colleagues and many new acquaintances. Initially, we worked diligently with our heads down and our attention focused. But as we grew more comfortable with the work at hand, we lightened up and began to joke around. By the time our shift was complete, we shared an invigoration that comes from working side by side with people in a combined effort to help others.

To participate in an event with a focus on helping the community is always rewarding. You simply feel good when you purposefully give of yourself. Our Pack Away Hunger event netted 11,664 meals. I’m sure some of those meals will go to feed the people I pass in my own neighborhood each day and I hope I can give more of my time in the future to worthwhile causes such as this.