Rotarians pack up and ship food collected for “One Million Meals” campaign

RIVERSIDE – Tens of thousands of pounds of food collected during a month-long drive to help feed needy families throughout the Inland Empire will be packed up and shipped out today.

During the month of September, 60 Rotary clubs in Riverside and San Bernardino counties sponsored a ”One Million Meals” campaign, encouraging inland residents to donate non-perishable canned goods or cash in support of food banks that serve the region’s less fortunate.

“The effort has been tremendous,” Sheryl Silver of the Palm Desert Rotary Club said. “And we will continue this campaign into next year.”

Silver couldn’t confirm whether the participating rotaries hit the one million mark, but she said that in some locations, donations poured in beyond anyone’s expectations.

“We’ve collected 86,000 pounds of canned food in the Coachella Valley alone,” she said. “Schools in Perris collected 5,000 pounds.”

At 10 a.m., donated items will be boxed up and prepared for distribution to a host of Inland Empire soup kitchens and other nonprofits during a ”packing party” at the Second Harvest Food Bank, 2950-B Jefferson St., in Riverside.

Silver said volunteer packers include around 300 school kids, some as young as 11 years old.

“One teacher is bringing in 30 students to teach them the importance of giving back,” she said.

Collected items include jars of peanut butter, pasta packages, rice, beans, tuna and hot dogs.

Rotaries set up drop-off locations in stores, coffee shops, fitness centers and theaters.

According to organizers, the Inland Empire ranks No. 4 in ”food insecurity” nationally because of the regional economy.

Food relief organizations deliver 300,000 meals a month to destitute families in the area, but that doesn’t meet demand, according to the Rotarians.

Rotary clubs span the United States and 200 other countries, with membership at 1.2 million. The clubs’ motto is “service above self.”

For more information on the One Million Meals campaign, visit http://rotarymillionmeals.com/.

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