NEW PALESTINE — Kasen Lee was holding a scoop for soy protein. His grandmother, Beth Arthur, held a scoop for rice.

At intervals, they and fellow team members dumped their scoops into a propped plastic zip-lock bag. Then it was handed off to be weighed, sealed and packed in a cardboard box.

More than a hundred volunteers lined tables April 20 in the New Palestine United Methodist Church gymnasium. Together, volunteers in a two-hour morning shift and an afternoon shift packed more than 40,000 meals to ship abroad.

“I’m going to serve the people of Guatemala,” Kasen said.

The 10-year-old said he’d worked at a previous meal packing event and likes giving back. He, his grandmother and his mother, Kathy Lee, were part of a table of eight people from Mt. Comfort Church forming an assembly line to package meals that morning.

Similar assembly lines flanked the large rectangular tables set up in NPUMC’s Community Ministry Center. At each one, another eight-person team did the same set of steps: scoop rice, soy, dried veggies and a micronutrient packet into each zip-lock bag; weigh the bag and add rice if needed to reach the right weight; press and seal the bag; and line up 36 of the flat packets in neat stacks in a cardboard box.

“When you figure out how to work efficiently, it makes it go a lot easier,” said Connor Champ, adding scoops to the bag along with his older twin sisters, Jillian Champ and Julia Champ. “It’s nice you’re helping people, so it kind of feels nice.”

The contents of each bag make six meals. Each box contains 36 bags, or 216 meals.

The boxes were loaded onto a truck and driven to Pack Away Hunger’s headquarters in Beech Grove before being shipped out through Convoy of Hope. The faith-based organization can partner with Pack Away Hunger and other organizations to fill cargo containers and ship food overseas.

New Palestine United Methodist Church and Mt. Comfort Church have partnered in, and taken turns playing host to, several previous meal packs through Pack Away Hunger. Other churches have also partnered in the past, but scheduling didn’t work out for as many this time. So the two churches sponsored this pack, which includes helping pay to ship the meals — $14,000-$15,000 to ship the 40,000 meals.

Still, volunteers turned out to set up, pack, and clean up. A morning shift of 80-100 volunteers was followed by an afternoon shift of at least 30 volunteers, Mt. Comfort Church pastor Ethan Maple said.

They met the goal of packing 40,000 meals. Some individual volunteers who attend other congregations, including Carrollton United Methodist Church and Cross of Grace Lutheran Church, also came to help pack.

“I would say there’s good hands-on buy-in for an international-focus ministry that we can do locally,” NPUMC pastor Anthony Stone said of volunteers, some of whom have worked at several previous packing events.

Stone has also been on the other end of the process. He unpacked such meals during a 2016 trip to Guatemala and has seen them served in a community.

“Not everyone can go on an international trip, nor should they,” he said, “but this is a way that we can be in ministry far beyond the walls of our community.”

Abigail Harlan, executive director of Pack Away Hunger, said 2024 is on pace to be the busiest of the past five years for the organization, which sends food to local food pantries and to sites overseas. She said there are indeed “regulars” who come back to meal packs again and again.

“Pastor Stone and Pastor Maple have both been such good advocates and partners to our organization,” Horton said. “They have a lot of their members in their congregation coming back year after year.

“Oftentimes people experience it once, and they have such fun that they make sure that they are coming back annually, and then they bring their friends or more family … it’s great to see the same faces year after year.”


You can initiate a meal packing event by visiting It involves recruiting volunteers to pack the meals and raising funds to cover the cost of packing thousands of meals at the event (about 35-38 cents per meal).

“We come in and we take care of everything,” said Abigail Harlan, executive director of Pack Away Hunger. “We do all the setup, we help people fundraise, we run the event and also handle the distribution.” The website also suggests other ways to get involved.



meals packed April 20


meals each packet makes


meals in each box

(36 packets)


volunteers for April 20 event

(setup, packing, cleanup)

1.5 million

meals Pack Away Hunger distributed in the United States and abroad in 2023