By Chris Bavender
The 11th annual Million Meal Marathon kicks off Oct. 14 with a tipoff food-packing event with the Indiana Pacers and Indiana Fever at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. It’s all part of the Million Meal Movement started in 2007 by Nancy and Dan Hintz of Carmel.
“I saw it done in another state and fell in love with it. I was looking for an opportunity for our then pre-K daughters to be with me to do volunteer work and couldn’t find anything in the Indianapolis area,” Nancy said. “What I really loved was seeing people of all ages – seniors, toddlers, people from all walks of life — come together and work side by side in harmony.”
Initially, the organization packed and sent boxes of food around the world, but during the economic downturn it realized many Hoosiers faced food insecurity. After assisting those affected by an earthquake in Haiti, the organization turned to addressing needs in its own backyard.
“I felt, how can we send it far away when we have people locally who are struggling?” Nancy said. “I remember articles about food pantries popping up and families standing in line eager to get some meals.”
The packing events have always been a family affair for the Hintz’s and their children, Jessica, 21, Vanessa, 19, and Alex, 15.
“One year, instead of a birthday party, Vanessa wanted to have a food-packing party with her friends so they could experience it, too,” Dan said. “That is what has always stood out to me. There are a lot of ways to volunteer but not many opportunities for kids to be involved. Often, they will say, ‘I am a kid. What can I do?’ And the answer is, you can do something, and this has been an engaging solution to teach our kids.”
Every meal packed will be distributed to food banks in Indiana.
This year will feature several packing events to keep groups smaller amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The tipoff will have three shifts at the Coliseum. Smaller events will be held Oct. 14 through Nov. 19 on Tuesday and Thursdays at Million Meal Movement’s headquarters, 9250 Corporation Drive, Suite 300, in Indianapolis.
Volunteers are still needed. To sign up, or for more information and a complete schedule of events, visit millionmealmovement.org.