Nov. 12—Last month, the West Virginia Knights of Columbus organization was joined by volunteers and students of the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy to pack 62, 000 meals to be distributed across West Virginia and shipped internationally.
The statewide sector of the international Knights of Columbus is a Catholic organization dedicated to community service. This event is just one of many, with food-packing events previously held in Morgantown, Wheeling, Clarksburg and Charleston. In the past, members have packed from 40, 000 to 80, 000 meals.
In 1968, a state Knights of Columbus member and project founder, Ned Sawyers, was a cook in the Coast Guard. While passing through Haiti, he witnessed people fighting over discarded food.
"That has always stuck in my mind, " said Sawyers. "I thought this project could tremendously help people like that."
The group raised nearly $20, 000 to order food products from Cross Catholic Outreach, an organization that partners with religious groups to send packaged meals to those in need. Fundraising efforts included an elimination dinner and donations received from the community.
Two types of meals were packed, one to be sent internationally and a domestic meal to stay in West Virginia. The international meal contained beans, rice, soy and dehydrated vegetables, and typically feeds a family of four to six. The domestic meal was a cheese, rice and vegetable mixture. Both meals also included a vitamin packet to meet nutritional standards.
Of the meals packed on Oct. 1, 20 % were distributed to food pantries across the state, from Kingwood to Beckley to Morgantown.
"I personally brought some back to Morgantown that were given to Pantry Plus, " said former West Virginia Knights of Columbus State Deputy Scott Nale. "So, we helped West Virginia as well as helping overseas. We made an impact worldwide."
The rest of the meals were sent back to Cross Catholic Outreach, ready to be delivered wherever they're needed.
In the past couple of years, Knights of Columbus' food-packing events have been canceled due to the pandemic. Now, members invite the community to join them for future projects.
"Everybody's welcome to help, " said Nale. "You don't have to be of a certain religion, and it's an amazing experience."
The next food-packing event will likely be held in Wheeling in the spring, followed by one in Morgantown in the spring and another in Inwood in fall 2023.