Hundreds of youth ages 12-18 from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints joined others on Wednesday, Sept. 28, to help package meals in a massive service event in Salt Lake City.
About 8,500 volunteers from different faiths and backgrounds are expected over three days to participate in the event titled 1 Million Meals at the Salt Palace Convention Center, according to a news release on ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
Mitch Sheridan, a youth leader present Wednesday, said, “I think all the youth are great examples of becoming Christlike, and I think opportunities like this are good examples for them to develop that and show that in their lives in following Christ.”
The youth helped package meals for the Utah Food Bank, which will distribute the food to more than 260 food pantries throughout Utah for families in need. Silicon Slopes, an organization that represents Utah’s business community, sponsored the 1 Million Meals service event, and Hunger Fight, a nonprofit based out of Florida, organized it.
Elder Kevin W. Pearson, a General Authority Seventy who serves as president of the Church’s Utah Area, was there with the youth on Wednesday.
“These youth are going to do about 250,000 meals tonight,” Elder Pearson said. “I’m sure we could get enough youth here to do well over a million themselves. The youth love to serve.”
Elder Pearson was joined by Sharon Eubank, the Church’s director of humanitarian services. They met the youth and visited with them as they also helped package meals.
Sister Eubank was impressed with the large number of young men and young women who came from all over the Salt Lake area.
“It’s blown the organizers away; they didn’t think youth would care about this,” Sister Eubank said.
Elder Pearson added, “You invite them to come, and they just show up en masse.”
The volunteers gathered at least eight to a table, where they scooped ingredients into bags, sealed the bags and placed them in boxes. Once 42 bags were packed in a box, the box would be sealed and stacked and the volunteers would ring a cowbell to celebrate.
As the tally grew throughout the evening, a DJ would occasionally announce the new number of prepared meals — inducing a cheer from the crowd.
Sister Eubank pointed out that many of the participants come from different schools, faiths and backgrounds.
“This is a really great opportunity [for them] to get to know each other in different ways,” she said.
The president and CEO of the Utah Food Bank, Ginette Bott, expressed her appreciation for the Church’s collaboration.
“[For] over 100 years, there’s been a connection between the two organizations. ... [Both work] collaboratively to help those in need and particularly those who are faced with food insecurity,” said Bott.
Next week, Hunger Fight will collaborate with the Church’s IT department to pack about 300,000 more meals. On Thanksgiving Day, Hunger Fight will be at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, to host a similar service event.
Last year’s event at the MTC resulted in about 385,000 meal kits.