"There is a lot of need in North Central Mass., but hunger is pretty fundamental (and) what we're going here today is very important," said Will Aubuchon, president of the Westminster-based hardware company chain, as he addressed the store employees and volunteers, all wearing hair nets and cellophane gloves, as they prepared to start packaging the meals.
And with a smile, he reminded the Aubuchon employees volunteering: "There's no finer food-packing group in the world."
The Heroes Against Hunger event held on Wednesday was a partnership between Aubuchon Hardware and the United Way of North Central Massachusetts.
"This is our kick-off event for 2016 and a celebration of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day of service," said Fran Longton, a volunteer coordinator for the United Way.
"You are here to solve problems and one of the problems is hunger. Today, every one of you is a change maker," said Longton while thanking all those for their efforts.
Working in teams of 12, the volunteers packaged meals of macaroni and cheese, rice and beans and pasta with Italian tomato basil sauce.
The food was purchased by Aubuchon from Outreach Inc., an Iowa-based non-profit that provides the uncooked nutritious meals and the packaging material.
Matthew Martin, a regional manager for Outreach, while explaining the importance of the packaging event, told the volunteers that each hour every person helps packaging food will provide 160 meals.
The packaged meals will be delivered to 16 food pantries in Leominster, Fitchburg, Gardner, Devens, Pepperell, Templeton and Westminster.
To drive home the importance of the effort, Cathy McDonald, the executive director of the Westminster Community Food Pantry briefly spoke about the struggles the town's pantry has at keeping its shelves stocked.
Westminster's pantry has prided itself in the past on being self-sufficient and relying on community contributions to carry out its mission that no one in the community goes hungry, said McDonald who was joined by pantry volunteer Dorcas Hurd.
However, she said, "I personally have experienced occasional moments of panic when I see our food pantry account deductions outweigh our deposits."
As a result, she said, in 2014-15 the pantry, turned to the United Way for help and it provided grocery store gift cards, which she added is "greatly appreciated," to help cover the cost of the pantry's weekly shopping.
"And today, for the first time, we are excited to be one of the recipient of the Heroes Against Hungry Events.