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Summer of Service Meal Pack Challenge (Hub Site)

Summer of Service to Seniors

For a startling number of older adults, poverty is a fact of life that threatens to put the American Dream out of reach. More than 10 million adults 50 and older live below the poverty line. This summer, AARP Foundation is traveling across the country to pack 3 million meals for older adults in need.

Meal packaging events are festivals of giving and caring that draw families, neighbors, colleagues and communities together. The events are also fun – with music and entertainment – and anyone of any age or background can participate. Volunteers have an extraordinary opportunity to give of their time and heart to hungry and food-insecure older adults by packaging flavorful, nutritious meals. All meals have been specially designed for mature adults by a team of food and nutrition researchers. Meals packaged at the event will be delivered to and distributed by local food banks.

AARP Foundation's 2016 Celebration of Service Meal Pack in Washington D.C.

Event FAQs

1. What is meal packing?
Meal packing events are festivals of giving and caring that draw families, neighbors, colleagues and communities together. The events are also fun – with music and entertainment – and everyone of any age or background can participate. Packing meals is an extraordinary opportunity to give of your time and heart to hungry and food-insecure older adults. In collaboration with U.S. Hunger and with the support of AARP Credit Cards from Chase and many additional sponsors, we will be welcoming thousands of volunteers coming together to package flavorful, nutritious meals. Following a welcome and check-in, shift volunteers will be trained in food safety and hygienic precautions, including hairnets, beard nets (if applicable), aprons, gloves, and frequent applications of hand sanitizer. Shift volunteers will then be organized into small-group assembly teams, which will be packaging the meals from bins of ingredients. The packaged meals are nonperishable, with an extended shelf life of two years, and require a boil point when cooked. The meals we package during the event will feed hungry and food-insecure seniors served by local food banks.
2. What time should I be there – and for how long?
Each shift lasts 90 minutes. It is recommended that you arrive at least 20 minutes prior to the start of your shift to ensure a smooth check-in. If you are planning to drive and park, please allow sufficient time to find parking and walk to the event. You will receive a confirmation email, and we ask that you print and bring it with you to the event.
3. What will I be doing?
Upon arrival at least 20 minutes prior to the start of your shift, you will be welcomed at the check-in tent and asked to view a video orientation film. You will then be asked to put on an apron, hairnet, beard net (if applicable), and initial hand disinfectant. You will be grouped with a packaging team of other volunteers at a production table. Everyone will once again sanitize hands using hand wipes. You may be given gloves depending on your assigned duty.
4. Will I be trained?
Absolutely! You will view a video orientation about our meal packing mission and on sanitation and food safety, as well as an overview of each task that will be performed in the assembly of the meals at the production tables. Additionally, you will receive personal hands-on training from one of our staff volunteers or our team of AARP Foundation and U.S. Hunger hosts. At any time should you have questions, just ask. We are here to make your experience easy, fun, and rewarding!
5. Is there anything I should do to prepare?
Yes. As sanitation and food safety is so important, we ask that you wash your hands vigorously with soap and water prior to arriving at the event. Further, all exposed finger, hand, and neck jewelry, lapel pins, hats, or any objects that could fall into a meal package must be either covered or removed. 

Please let us know if you’re getting, having, or ending a cold, so we can place you at a non-food-handling activity.
6. What should I wear?
Clean, relaxed, casual clothing and comfortable closed-toe shoes are recommended. A t-shirt will be provided at check-in.
7. What should I bring?
Please bring the confirmation email you printed after you registered online for the event. 
8. What should I NOT bring?
Leave your valuables and jewelry at home or where you are staying. There are no storage areas for valuables and we cannot assume any liability for loss of valuables at or during the event. All exposed finger, hand, and neck jewelry must be either covered or removed. Please also note that we cannot allow food or drink in the meal production area.
9. Where are the nearest restrooms?
AARP Foundation will supply portable restrooms for your use near the tent setup for meal packing.
10. Is it difficult? Is it safe? Is it fun?
Meal packing is entertaining and fun - always safe - and very easy. You will work with teams of volunteers in a joyful celebration of giving. You will be clearly shown what to do. While the time passes quickly, you will be on your feet for 90 minutes; so if you fatigue easily, please let us know, and we can assign you to a task that can be performed while seated. Quality and precision are far more important than speed, but in your brief time with us, you will have the satisfaction of participating in the packaging of thousands of meals for those in need.
11. Are there age restrictions? May I bring the whole family?
As a volunteer, we welcome everyone. And yes, bring all members of your family, your friends and neighbors, your colleagues at work, school or church. They may sign up themselves, or you can sign them up using online registration.
12. What if I have allergies?
You could be asked to work with soy protein, to which some people are allergic, and other food products such as rice and beans. There can also be a small amount of soy or wheat dust. If you have a soy, wheat, or other allergy, let us know and we can assign you to a volunteer task that offers little or no exposure. Similarly, if you have an allergy to latex, we can assign you to a volunteer task that does not require the use of gloves.
13. What if I have a disability?
You are welcome to join us! When you arrive, let us know of any special needs or restrictions you have, and we will assign you to an appropriate volunteer task.
14. Are the meals nutritious?
At the 2017 Celebration of Service Meal Pack Challenge, volunteers will be packaging a flavorful, nutritious rice-and-beans meal, fortified with protein, nutrients and vitamins. In fact, the ingredient and nutritional formulations have been especially designed for mature adults by Outreach in collaboration with a team of food and nutrition researchers led by Dr. Ruth MacDonald, RD, Professor and Chair of the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department of Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
15. Where are the meals going?
Our meals will be distributed locally to hungry and food-insecure older adults. [PLACEHOLDER FOR PARTNERSHIP INFORMATION]
16. Tell me about AARP Foundation.
AARP Foundation works to ensure that low-income older adults have nutritious food, affordable housing, a steady income and strong and sustaining bonds. We collaborate with individuals and organizations who share our commitment to innovation and our passion for problem solving. Supported by vigorous legal advocacy, we create and advance effective solutions that help struggling older adults transform their lives. AARP Foundation is the affiliated charity of AARP.
17. Tell me about U.S. Hunger
US Hunger specializes in the empowerment and mobilization of people to provide a healthy solution to the hunger problem in the United States. Learn more about US Hunger's work at ushunger.com
18. How can I volunteer again with AARP Foundation or AARP?
AARP Foundation, AARP, and U.S. Hunger offer exciting, rewarding, energizing opportunities to share, give back, and stay connected to your community and your world. Volunteer opportunities may be found on AARP Foundation's website at www.aarpfoundation.org. Also visit the AARP state pages for AARP Chapter volunteer opportunities. You can also visit AARP’s website, www.createthegood.org, which will help you find numerous charitable volunteer, giving opportunities right within your own community.

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