Volunteers at a church in Oakton, Virginia, reached a major milestone on Sunday in their efforts to end hunger: they packed their millionth meal.
Vale United Methodist Church partners with the group RISE Against Hunger and uses the proceeds from Christmas tree sales to get the foodstuffs.
The process starts in March, when the church starts planning those sales.
“Then the sale for the trees begins around Thanksgiving, that weekend after Thanksgiving, and the proceeds from that sale translates to food,” a member of the church, Mike Martin, said.
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Then, volunteers come together to put the contents of 50-pound sacks into meal packets to be boxed and shipped.
That cycle occasionally starts and ends locally. People can sponsor a Christmas tree that then gets donated to an area family, and those proceeds turn into grains that feed those in need.
The history of Vale United Methodist Church dates back to 1894. Though it still has a relatively small congregation, the work they do also makes a difference internationally.
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“This food ends up internationally. We partner with school feeding programs, vocational programs, hospitals and orphanages,” Pam Love, of RISE Against Hunger, said.
“I love it when they go to schools, because now the kids have a choice of, ‘Gee, do I go out and buy food, or do I go school and get food?’” pastor Jeff Haugh said. “It’s easier, it’s healthier and of course you’re getting an education at the same time.”
Last year, Martin said the church packaged 100,000 meals.
“It was a record year for us,” he said.
But on Sunday, thanks to the years of efforts of volunteers, they packed their one-millionth meal.
Correction (Feb. 5, 2024 at 8:30 a.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the church. It's called Vale United Methodist Church. This article has been updated.