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A different kind of bag lunch

Grundy County 4-H clubs work at Illini Fighting Hunger Meal Packing event

MORRIS – The trick is to make sure the scoop of rice is just a little heaping over the edge, Jessie Henke of Morris said. That's the quick and easy way to get the right amount.

Henke was one of a group of kids from Grundy County 4-H clubs that gathered on Wednesday in the St. Angela Room at Immaculate Conception Parish to help pack dried casserole meals for Illini Fighting Hunger.

"The kids assemble the bags in assembly-line fashion, putting together the food bags," said Anthony Warmack with the University of Illinois Extension and a 4-H community member. He said each bag will feed six people and comes with instructions on each bag on how to make make the meal.

The bag is designed so that it's four ingredients — rice, chicken bouillon, dried vegetables and soy protein — provide all of the nutrition one person needs for an entire day, Warmack said.

"People say hunger isn't a huge problem in Grundy County," Warmack said. And he agreed, with a number of other community organizations helping feed people or running food banks. But because the food bags made at the meal packing event are dried food, they can be stored and keep for several years, he said. He pointed to natural disasters like storms or tornadoes that occur in the area.

The bags are a staple product that can be mobilized quickly, he said.

Working in teams and wearing hairnets, groups would man stations that consisted of the four main ingredients and bags with the labels applied by another group. One team member would hold the bag under the funnel, and then in quick succession scoops of the the four ingredients would be poured down the funnel. Then it was taken away for sealing and the group moved onto a new bag,

Sarah Folsom of Minooka said the rice always need to be put on top, because it helps when weighing the bag to make sure it's correct.

Warmack said the event would make about 18,000 packs in one day.

Shaela O'Keefe of Coal City said she'd done events like this before, and wasn't concerned she was doing work on her spring break.

"It's good experience to help people around the world," she said.

Several of the groups there were part of the Homes Cool 4-H club and the event was one of their service project days.

The packs will be distributed throughout Grundy County.

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