The Million Meal Marathon
Hoosiers Are Fighting Hunger At Home With Packing Event Nov. 13 at Lucas Oil Stadium
Writer / Suzanne Huntzinger
No training is necessary for this marathon, and you can forget the new running shoes, water bottle and Fitbit. Just show up Tuesday, November 13 at Lucas Oil Stadium, and when the starting gun goes off, race along with dozens of other volunteers to pack one million meals for hungry Hoosiers.
Carmel residents Nancy Hintz and her husband Dan started this mission to fight hunger in 2007 after seeing a news story that inspired them to take action. Nancy treasured her experiences as a child doing volunteer projects for school. Collecting coins, food or clothing to donate to people in need made her feel good about doing a civic duty, but she rarely had the opportunity to see the fruits of the labor. So, when Nancy saw the news story about a meal packaging program happening in another state, the lightbulb went off.
“I wanted to inspire my kids to become involved in volunteerism,” she says. “Packaging meals is hands-on and you see the fruits of your labor right before your eyes.”
Nancy did some research and discovered Indianapolis didn’t have a volunteer meal packaging program, so she and Dan set about finding a way to make it happen. That’s when they created the Million Meal Movement.
“The Million Meal movement fulfills two kinds of hunger,” Hintz says. “Feeding people who are hungry and feeding people’s need to help others. This program is the way to do that.”
When the Million Meal Movement launched, the American Red Cross in Noblesville opened its doors to them and they began holding packing events. Though the organization holds many packaging events throughout the year, the Million Meal Marathon became their signature event. Since its inception, the organization has provided more than 29 million meals to hungry Hoosiers.
This year’s Marathon event takes place at Lucas Oil Stadium. It’s an all-day affair, kicking off at 8:30 a.m. with a press conference and lasting until 9 p.m. Each shift lasts two hours, and volunteers will work feverishly to hit that grand total of one million meals packed. If they go over the goal before the marathon is over, Hintz says they’ll just keep going.
“We’ll crank up the jam and dance along to some groovy tunes. It’s a great way to engage people of all ages and make it a family affair,” Hintz says. “It’s awe-inspiring to see how excited the volunteers get when they realize they really can make a difference. Kids, especially teens, are hopping around, happy and enjoying helping others. They have an innate sense to want to help others. But it grows when they watch adults do it with them. It becomes a lifelong habit.”
Each year, word of mouth spreads, and the event becomes more popular than the year prior.
“One year, we had a group of boys who were very clear about how unhappy they were to be there,” Hintz says. “I worked with them, got them set up with their materials and, once I got them going, they loved it. They had so much fun, they were the last to leave.”
Many of the volunteers are families, including toddlers, seniors and people with disabilities. Companies are getting in on the act and bringing teams of staff to join the fun. To register a family to volunteer, the organization asks for a $60 registration fee which covers the cost of the food. If you’re registering for one person, the fee is $35 for adults and $25 for children.
Sponsorships are available to companies whose staff want to participate.
“Tables compete with each other and it’s a real team-bonding experience,” Hintz adds. “It’s all Hoosiers coming together to help other Hoosiers.”
Each packed bag holds six meals and has all the vitamins and minerals hungry Hoosiers need to grow and thrive. They include dried vegetables, soy protein and rice for filling, whole grain fiber. The meals go to Midwest Food Bank and Gleaners Food Bank where they are distributed throughout the state.
Volunteer spots for packing at the marathon go quickly, but if you try to sign up and don’t see a spot at a table for your requested time slot, don’t worry, there are plenty of other jobs available. Become a part of the crew and help with set-up, check-in, refilling ingredients, clean-up and more.
As exciting and energy-charged as the Marathon is, it’s not the only opportunity to help the Million Meal Movement. The organization holds packing events on the third Saturday of every month. These events are ideal for smaller organizations like scouts, youth groups, church groups and sports teams. If your company has a team of people who want to become involved but can’t make the events, call to inquire about planning a packing event at your location.
“We’ll work with you,” Hintz says. “We always look for ways to help businesses and even schools participate in this important community service.”
Become a part of the Million Meal Movement. To register for the Million Meal Marathon, a Saturday event, plan a packing event at your organization or to donate, visit millionmealmovement.org or call them at 317-863-8655. Million Meal Movement is located at 9250 Corporation Drive, Suite 300, Indianapolis.