With over 500 Elders in the Program, and each receiving a set of two food boxes at each food run, it is an enormous job to pack the more than one thousand boxes needed for all the food runs. Preparations start several months ahead with the ordering and delivery of food to the warehouse. Several weeks prior to the start of the food runs volunteers meet at the warehouse on two consecutive Saturdays to pack the food into the Rainbow Food Boxes.
Here is part of the group assembled for orientation before the start of packing. Warehouse manager, Craig Payne, is explaining the procedures that will be followed.
Once the packing begins, volunteers with shopping carts place the prescribed food items into the pair of boxes that will become a set for each Elder. They move in a circular fashion about the warehouse picking up items that are arranged against the warehouse walls. At the end of each circuit labels are assigned to each box, and it is transferred from the cart to the taping table.
The food which is packed in these boxes consists of staple items such as coffee, tea, oatmeal, pasta, as well as a variety of canned goods. At the food runs Elders also receive a twenty pound sack of Blue Bird flour along with bags of potatoes and onions. Each set contains $75 worth of food items.
After the boxes are loaded they are taped closed and labels affixed so that every box will ultimately reach its intended Elder. Labels are color coded for each food run location on the reservation. This makes it easier to identify each load and be certain that boxes are delivered to the proper site.
A large number of volunteers is needed to accomplish the work. In addition to regular Program volunteers, special groups also come to help. Above is a group of students from the Salt Lake Community College.
And here is a group from the South Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. In all, there are typically 30 to 50 volunteers helping to accomplish this critical part of the Program's mission.
The fall food runs are currently in progress with the results of these packing efforts being distributed across the Navajo Reservation.