Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Friday is a very big day on the University of Montana campus as students and community volunteers will be busy all day packaging nearly 100,000 meals for hungry western Montana families.

KGVO News spoke to Susan Hay Patrick, CEO of the Missoula County United Way about the event being held in the Adams Center from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Friday.

It's the 4th Annual United Food Friday

“It is our fourth University United Food Friday,” began Hay Patrick. “It is a mass meal packing event where 300 volunteers will come to the University Center ballroom and pack 100,000 non-perishable meals. These will be distributed by Missoula Food Banks through their Empower Pack program. That's a program where teachers put food into the backpacks of students on Friday afternoons and before the start of school vacation. Students that they think might not have enough to eat when school isn't in session.”

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Hay Patrick explained how the program came to Missoula.

“You know, I had heard about other United Ways doing a program like this, and in 2018 I thought it was time that we bring it to Missoula,” she said. “We're such a giving community and people love to volunteer. Of course, we know that way too many of our neighbors are going hungry on a regular basis. The Missoula Food Bank loves the program because it enables them to distribute a family meal and the Power Pack generally is just meals for the individual child, but this enables them to serve up to six people, and that's really a great treat.”

The Outreach Program Provides all the Food and Supplies

Hay Patrick provided details on where all the food comes from for the event.

“We partner with a company called The Outreach Program and they supply all the food all the packing equipment, the hair nets, the gloves, and even the food safety protocols,” she said. “And because it's done on such a scale, we're able to do it more cheaply than if you went out to the store and bought 100,000 individual pasta or rice and beans meals.”

Lots of Volunteers to Help, Including a Hungry Bear

Hay Patrick said hundreds of volunteers will be on hand to help pack the meals, including one very hungry bear.

“UM students, volunteers, and companies all take part, and we have a number of local sponsors,” she said. “Wells Fargo was our lead sponsor, but we have many other local businesses and organizations that are sponsoring along with lots of students. Monte (The UM mascot) will be there, and the mayor will be there. But it's a great family event. And it's really a fun, fun day and you just feel so good knowing that you're helping to feed hungry families.”

Hay Patrick also clarified the fact that no tax dollars were used for the event; that all the food has been purchased through donations and that the labor was being donated.

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