Sam’s Club Bentonville assembles 10,000 meals for local charity

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 171 views 

Dried rice, soy protein, vitamins and minerals fed through a funnel collected in a plastic bag, weighed and sealed by volunteers might seem like an easy task. But it’s also how The Pack Shack, a local charity, is working to stamp out hunger one party at a time.

On Sunday (Sept. 7), roughly 50 volunteers from Sam’s Club in Bentonville, stayed after hours to pack 10,100 meals that will go to the Samaritan Community Center in Rogers. The 25-cent per meal cost was donated by Sam’s Club as was the labor for filling the bags. They completed the task in about an hour’s time, working together in five different task teams.

Bret Raymond and Jarod King, co-founders of The Pack Shack charity, each spent time in Rwanda and have worked with the World Health Organization to configure the most efficient and nutritious food packs that only requires added water.  Raymond said each pack is carefully weighed to make 16 servings and when mixed with water and the rice protein meal cooks in 20 minutes. He said each bag is heat sealed and will last up to two years in storage.

Sam’s Club Manager Jason Schwindt told The City Wire he had no trouble getting volunteers for The Pack Shack party event. 

“Some stayed on past their shift. Others came in with their kids on their day off to help us pack these meals for the Samaritan Community Center food pantry,” Schwindt said.

He said the local club also provides soon-to-expire meat and bakery items to local food pantries. Sam’s Club gave $72.81 million last year to charities and organizations around the state.

Raymond said the local charity works with Sam’s Club when it hosts events in other cities such as a large event it’s holding for Tyson Foods in Iowa in the few weeks.

“Sam’s is great to work with because they let us order the rice through their stores in areas where we are going to be. We just pick it up there and don’t have to haul it,” Raymond said.

Another major perk when working with Wal-Mart Stores and Sam’s Club are the VAP money rewards that come in the form of a check payment after the event has taken place. VAP – Volunteering Always Pays – is a cash donation for each hour a employee donates to helping a charity.

“We just got our first VAP check and were blown away. It’s a great concept,” Raymond said.

The idea for The Pack Shack “Feed the Funnel” parties comes from similar events hosted by the World Health Organization on a global scale. Raymond said his business partner tried get a local chapter of that organization in Northwest Arkansas to no avail. 

“They just kind of laughed at us,” Raymond said.

But Raymond noted that hunger and food insecurity is a real issue in Arkansas and in Benton and Washington counties.

“Many people don’t know that Arkansas is at the worst when it comes to food insecurity in children and senior citizens. In the U.S. there are 50 million people who are food insecure — that’s one in six. In Arkansas it’s one in five people. Among Arkansas kids it’s one in four and in Arkansas seniors it’s one in three,” Raymond said

He adds that single moms have a 30% chance to face food insecurity at some point in the year.

“We have seen that plenty of folks in this region want to make a difference. We are on track to pack and donate roughly 2 million meals in our first full year of operation ending March 2015,” Raymond said.

He said it takes just four things to host a feed the funnel party — space, tables, people and 25 cents a meal donation, which includes the food, packaging and administrative costs. Raymond said the party sponsors can chose the charity they want their effort to support which keeps the food local in most cases. He said their lean team is looking to host more Feed the Funnel parties before the holidays. For a look at a party event visit this link.