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A million meals: La Jolla resident leads food-packing party for international charity

Volunteers work at tables in assembly-line style to create food packages to be sent to three countries.
Volunteers work at tables in assembly-line style to create food packages to be sent to three countries in an event organized by La Jolla resident Mike Daniels.
(Courtesy of Mike Daniels )

With the lofty goal of packing a million meals to help people in need, La Jolla resident Mike Daniels organized a food-packing party June 11-12 at Cathedral Catholic High School in Carmel Valley and opened the invitation to fellow Catholics who wanted to help.

Daniels, a deacon at St. Brigid Parish in Pacific Beach, was joined by deacons of the Diocese of San Diego and their wives in holding the event. More than 1,000 volunteers showed up during the weekend, and together they reached the goal of assembling more than 166,000 food packages — each feeding six people — to create a total of 1 million meals for people in three countries for Kids Around the World’s OneMeal program.

“There is a commitment in Catholicism to feed the poor,” Daniels said. “It is part of the Catholic experience, so people from Catholic churches around the county showed up.”

La Jolla was represented by parishioners from Mary, Star of the Sea and All Hallows Catholic churches, he said.

In assembly-line style with materials provided by the OneMeal program, the volunteers worked in shifts to create the food packages.

According to Kids Around the World, “OneMeal provides a foundational meal that can be used across cultures to deliver sustaining nutrition to impoverished children where food insecurity is a daily reality.”

Meals include red lentils (“a superior source of protein”); fortified white rice for calories; a “PhytoBlend” packet, which is a combination of 24 vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients; and a dehydrated vegetable packet.

They are intended to be easily rehydrated and served.

Half the packages will go to a feeding center in Tijuana, a quarter will go to a refugee center in Ukraine and a quarter will go to a feeding center in Ecuador.

“I think everyone needs positivity right now and it was joyful to be part of something that was all good. ... It made us feel like a part of humanity.”

— Mike Daniels

Daniels had participated in smaller-scale meal-packing events in Pacific Beach for years. But “I wanted to scale it up” by packing a million meals in one weekend, he said.

Tables were set up for five shifts, three on Saturday and two on Sunday, with volunteers staffing each needed position.

Volunteers work at stations to portion out lentils, rice, dehydrated vegetables and seasonings for each meal package.
Volunteers work at stations to portion out lentils, rice, dehydrated vegetables and seasonings for each meal package.
(Courtesy of Mike Daniels)

“It was a cool event and a lot of fun,” Daniels said. “We had music and people were dancing while they packaged. We did so well on our Saturday shifts that we packed 800,000 meals. We were more efficient that we thought we would be. It was wild.”

“We’re living in a time where there is a lot of bad news, so it is thrilling to be a part of something positive,” he added. “I think everyone needs positivity right now and it was joyful to be part of something that was all good. We all left thinking, ‘Maybe the world is not so bad.’ I feel great to have provided an event for people to give back. ... It made us feel like a part of humanity.” ◆