Fighting food insecurity: United Way Day of Caring volunteers pack 75,000 meals Tuesday

Lauren Brant/Gering Courier Tiffany Wasserburger pours in a cup of oats into a funnel as Tabitha McCloud holds a bag. They volunteered for the annual United Way Day of Caring Tuesday, held at the Weborg 21 Centre in Gering.

The seventh annual United Way Day of Caring was another success as local businesses, students and community members packaged 75,000 meals to help address food insurity across the valley Tuesday, Oct. 1.

United Way of Western Nebraska Executive Director Steph Black said 240 volunteers came out to help package macaroni and cheese as well as apple cinnamon oatmeal before it was loaded into trucks and transported to places in Morrill, Mitchell, Scottsbluff, Gering and Bayard. The meals are fortified with protein and soy.

“It’s amazing how many people in our community don’t know where their next meals are coming from,” Black said. “It’s very said.”

Through donations and grants, United Way is able to supply food throughout the area without shifting funds away from other programs. Black said the 24 sponsors along with volunteers make the Day of Caring event successful.

Some of the programs that will benefit from the meals include school backpack programs, local soup kitchens, diaper depot and Firefighters Ministry.

Missi Iasillo was one of the volunteers packaging oatmeal Tuesday. Iasillo is involved with the Scottsbluff Public Schools Catpack program and is grateful for the community support.

“Well so many of these meals go to the Catpack program and we send them home about every other week,” Iasillo said.

This year, the Catpack program is sending home 140 meals and Gering’s Puppack program is sending home 60 meals. Iasillo said their numbers are up for this point in the year.

Cherokee Gribble was glad the number of meals increased from 60,000 to 75,000, so they can help more people.

“It’s good to be part of the community and being able to help those in need,” Gribble said. “Since United Way added more bags this year, it will help a lot of people in our community.”

As these meals make their way out into the communities, Black hopes the event continues to raise awareness about food insecurity.

“It bothers me so much that so many people struggle with meals,” she said. “We have hungry kids and the backpack programs help the kids have a meal during the weekends. Sometimes those meals are shared by the family.”

Black added each bag contains enough food to feed six people, so it can feed a family.

Executive director of the DOVES program Hilary Wasserburger worked alongside DOVES personnel packing and measuring macaroni before the bags were sealed and placed into boxes.

“This is a great event and we have a lot of fun,” Wasserburger said. “It makes me aware of the need in our community and goes beyond the services we provide at DOVES.”

Wasserburger added this event will hopefully inspire people to give back and it helps her appreciate what she has in life.

Black said the United Way also organizes a packaging event for Dawes and Box Butte counties where volunteers will package 25,000 meals. That brings the total to 100,000 meals for the Panhandle.

“I get goosebumps every time we do this just seeing people working together to make an impact on those less fortunate,” she said.

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Lauren Brant is a reporter with the Star-Herald and the Gering Courier. Contact her at 308-632-9043 or by email at lauren.brant@starherald.com.

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