ROBBINSVILLE, NJ -- Rotary Clubs from Central Jersey, led by the local Robbinsville - Hamilton chapter, have reorganized their first Mercer County-based meal packing event called End Hunger 3.6 after the original March program was canceled out of caution during the spread of the COVID-19 (coronavirus.)

Now, the program organized by six local clubs of Rotary District 7475 (including the Rotary Clubs of Hamilton Township, Montgomery-Rocky Hill, Princeton, Princeton Corridor, Robbinsville Hamilton and Trenton has been reconfigured and will be held over two weeks, still with a goal of 150,000 meals for area residents facing food insecurity to be packed by a goal of 1,000 volunteers. 

“Due to the COVID-19 crisis, nutrient-dense, shelf stable, easy-to-prepare meals are in high demand across our region by Food Banks and senior-service agencies,” said Bill Coleman, president of the Rotary Club of Robbinsville Hamilton, a member of the Hightstown Elks Lodge #1955 and Co-Chair of the End Hunger 3.6 initiative.  “This new COVID-19 response model will help us provide much-needed support for the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank, the Salvation Army in Trenton and other local area Food Pantries.”

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According to the Rotary Club, every 3.6 seconds, someone in the world dies of starvation or malnutrition.  In New Jersey, almost one million people are living below the poverty line.  One in five children is hungry and relying on food stamps for meals.  

Beginning Monday, May 4 through Wednesday, May 20 -- or until all 150,000 meals have been packaged -- 15 community volunteers per shift will help package these non-perishable high-protein meals.  There will be two three-hour volunteer shifts each day between 10:00 am and 1:00 pm and 1:30 pm and 4:30pm at the Hightstown Elks Lodge #1955, 110 Hickory Corner Road in East Windsor. 

Last year, 25 members of the Robbinsville Rotary Club participated in the meal packing event in Raritan which inspired them to organize one more locally. 

"People enjoy the hands-on project," said Scott Biondi of the Rotary Club.  "It is a community group effort and a bonding event that case help ease hunger."

At a cost of only 25 cents per meal, they will include items such as oatmeal, contents to make a minestrone soup, or sealed bags with pasta, beans, or soy that families can add water to create a soup or stew.   

The Rotary Club also has held a "Send Hunger Packing" food drive for 10 years which led them to the group to see a meal packing event as a natural next step in their charitable programs. 

"It's in our DNA to do these kinds of things.   It will be a great event for families come out and take kids to be part of it," added Biondi. 

Volunteers, who will be limited in numbers per shift, will need to register to participate in the End Hunger 3.6 by logging on to rhrotary.org/end-hunger-3-6/ . 

All volunteers must wear a face covering or mask to enter the building and all social distancing practices will be strictly followed.  Since food products will be handled, ServSafe required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves, aprons, hair and beard nets will be provided and must be worn.  

Representatives of Mercer County area food pantries that are interested in receiving a portion of the 696 cases packaged food can call (609) 577-2536 or email info@rhrotary.org to arrange a pick-up.  Finished meal donations will be available between May 6 and May 20 for food pantry distribution.         

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