Samantha Rohloff
April 1, 2022 // Local

Volunteers pack 28,000 meals for Poland

Samantha Rohloff

More than 150 men, women and children gathered in St. Vincent de Paul School in Fort Wayne on March 27. There, in association with Project 216, a Christian organization dedicated to rallying communities together to feed the hungry, they worked for nearly two hours packing meals for thousands of Poles that they have never even met.

When volunteers checked in that Sunday afternoon, they grabbed hairnets and sanitized their hands. Crowding into the parish hall, they watched an introductory video explaining the ins and outs of the day’s procedures and soon got to work. Father Daniel Scheidt, Pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, later paid a visit to pray a blessing over everyone present.

Photos by Samantha Rohloff
Joining forces with Project 216, more than 150 volunteers meet at St. Vincent de Paul School in Fort Wayne on March 27 to pack meals for the hungry in Poland.

Vicki Welch, a St. Vincent volunteer who coordinates with Project 216 through the parish’s Stewardship Committee, explained how it was especially inspiring to witness even the youngest among the community volunteering their time. “I believe that getting children involved in service in a fun way can be life-changing. It can really kind of give them the idea that, ‘Wow, I can do fun things and help people at the same time.’”

Initially introduced to Project 216 at a friend’s Lutheran church, Welch knew she had to bring this mission closer to her home parish. This was her fourth year cooperating with Project 216 at the Fort Wayne parish, and she was very excited to reinstate this Lenten activity of almsgiving after the COVID-19 pandemic had prevented it in the past. She explained that the original plan that day was to prepare and package around 25,000 meals.

In less than two hours, nearly four pallets of 130 boxes were full. With 216 meals per box, that meant volunteers packed more than 28,000 meals that day for the hungry in Poland. In addition to getting the volunteers involved by physically packing the food, they were also provided with samples of the meals – another way to connect them to those for whom they were helping.

Families, friends and parishioners team up in groups of 12 to form assembly lines that make the meal prepping as efficient as possible. Each person has a part to play, even the youngest children.

Project 216’s Events Development Specialist Ellen Mann also focused on the community, particularly on the families. “I think the best thing is – see this family right here?” she asked, pointing at a family working together to pack meals. “This event is one of the very few where an entire family can serve together.” Including this year, as soon as the day’s packaging came to a close, a projected 109,000 meals have been prepared by St. Vincent de Paul parishioners alone, she stated.

The meaning behind Project 216’s name is threefold. Each box contains 216 bagged meals. Just one person on their own can package about 216 meals in two hours. Finally, because it is a Christian group, the organization bears a Biblical connection. James 2:16 reads: “If one of you says to those in need, ‘Go in peace, keep warm and well fed’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”

Volunteers help to pack more than 28,000 meals in just two short hours.

One Nutri-Plenty meal, the name given to Project 216’s meals, contains dehydrated vegetables, soy, rice and a foil packet of 21 vitamins and minerals that is added at the end of the cooking time for the pre-packaged meal. This last element was developed by the Mathile Institute, said Mann. The group’s mathematical way of preparing their meals is very particular so as to make sure that the motif of 216 is not just another number. It is a message – a message of love and service to others, fulfilling Christ’s mission to His followers to feed the hungry, a perfect project for the Lenten season of spiritual growth and almsgiving.

To learn more about Project 216, visit

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