As 500 volunteers in bright orange shirts streamed into the gym at Penn State Berks, a sense of excitement and anticipation filled the air. The big room was the same as always: blue tarp on the floor, rows of tables covered with product bins and equipment, palettes full of macaroni and soy waiting to be distributed in the back. But the people were a little different this time around. COVID had forced The Big Cheese to take a two-year hiatus, and the pandemic revealed just how deeply hunger and food insecurity affect our community. With a new understanding of how important their efforts are, the volunteers were ready and eager to start packing the 250,000 mac and cheese meals for local people.
“It’s so good to be back!” Tammy White, president of United Way, exclaimed as she took the mic to welcome the volunteers to the event. “One in five people in Berks County are food insecure, or at risk of being food insecure. Tonight, together, we will package 250,000 mac and cheese meals to help families in need. Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm, your time and your LIVE UNITED spirit!”
“Kids love macaroni and cheese,” noted Jay Worrell, president of Helping Harvest Fresh Food Bank. “We’ll be packing [the mac and cheese meals] in Weekender Bags. We’re so grateful for the product. We’re so grateful for the teamwork, and United Way has just been great.”
Helping Harvest’s Weekender Bags are filled with food and sent home with local elementary school children in need every week of the school year. The bags are an important way to ensure children have access to nutritional food when they are not in school and are distributed in nearly every school district in Berks County. The Reading School District will also distribute the mac and cheese meals to their students.
Thanks to everyone’s excitement and hard work, the meals were packaged in just three hours. As the volunteers took photos to remember the night, they shared how much fun they had and how much they’re looking forward to next year. Stay tuned for dates and details for The Big Cheese 7!
View the recap video to see the event in action
We share our gratitude to everyone who supported this event:
- Penn State Berks and their incredible team
- The Big Cheese Volunteers
- The Highlands at Wyomissing and their volunteers
- Our event sponsors: FirstEnergy Foundation, Santander and Lasting Image, a TSC Company
- Our snack and drink sponsors: Boyers Food Markets, Giant Food Stores, Redner’s Fresh Markets, Singer Equipment, Sweet Street, Tom Sturgis Pretzels, Wawa and Unique Snacks
- Our DJ: Jobany Bedoya of Red Tie Affairs