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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Missionaries assemble breakfast packages during a Thanksgiving Day service project at the Missionary Training Center in Provo Thursday. More than 1,400 missionaries participated and assembled about 350,000 meals for the Utah Food Bank.

PROVO, Utah — For Thanksgiving Day, missionaries in the Provo MTC donned red and blue hair nets, sang songs and rang cowbells as they worked together to assemble more than 350,000 Breakfast Bites meals to donate to the Utah Food Bank. The ingredients to assemble Apple Pie Oats kits — Scottish oats, puffed rice, dehydrated apple bits and nutmeg — were contributed by the Church and organizers from Feeding Children Everywhere, a non-profit organization started in Orlando, Florida, provided the supplies and arranged the assembly lines in one of the parking garages at the MTC.

There were 60 assembly tables set up to accommodate 1,500 volunteers. In teams of 12, missionaries worked together to combine the ingredients, seal the bags, box up the packets and stack the finished and taped up boxes. They sang hymns and holiday songs and with each box packed, they would ring a cowbell and cheer.

Dave Green, CEO of Feeding Children Everywhere, told missionaries during a meeting before the service project, “Our mission as an organization is activating people for a hunger-free world.”

He told the missionaries that they would be working on a hunger project. “It’s fun, it’s high-energy, and it’s a hands on way to make a tangible impact on the lives of children and families in need. And you’re going to get to do that today.”

Krystal Rivera, regional manager of Feeding Children Everywhere in Dallas, Texas, has been instrumental in organizing meal packaging events on Thanksgiving for the past five years at the MTC. “We partner pretty heavily with the LDS Church and they’ve just been really great to come alongside with,” she said.

“We have been so grateful and fortunate that we’ve had the best of the best working alongside us to help to cultivate a great experience, a quick experience for people to get a multitude of healthy meals [packaged] in a short amount of time,” Rivera said.

Missionaries stacked up the boxed up and completed meal packets on pallets, which were picked up on Monday by the Utah Food Bank then distributed throughout the state.

For Ginette Bott, chief development officer of the Utah Food Bank, Thanksgiving Day is quite busy. She had been up since midnight setting up and helping run the Utah Human Race, a 5k and 10K to fundraise money for the food bank. But when she was invited to visit the MTC during this service project, she couldn’t say no.

“I think we all are able to be more grateful when we give to someone else,” Bott said. “I hope this will be a lasting memory for these [missionaries].”

Sister Sharon Eubank, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency and director of LDS Charities, joined in with the missionaries on one of their assembly lines. “I spent my Thanksgiving in the MTC, so I know you want to do something. Otherwise you get homesick,” she said. “To be able to do a service project like this that’s going to benefit the Utah Food Bank with 350,000 meals, that’s something that you can be really proud about.”

“I really like doing this kind of stuff so I’m so exciting that I get to be a part of something,” Sister Sydney Hansen of Bountiful, Utah, said as she scooped oats. She will be serving in the New York New York North Mission, Mandarin-speaking. “The whole project is really cool for me because I’m from this area and it will affect the kids that are around me.”

Sister Deanie Martino, who serves with husband, President David C. Martino, as he presides over the Provo MTC, said that there isn’t anything better on Thanksgiving, when missionaries are away from home, than to give service. “They’re feeling great today. … They’re so involved in what they’re doing. This is a great project, and so well organized.”

By the end of the project, the missionaries will have packaged $90,000 worth of food, Sister Martino said. “I’m excited to be a part of it.”

“I’ve never done a service project on Thanksgiving so this is actually pretty cool,” Elder Benjamin Atkinson from West Valley City, Utah, told the Church News. He will serve in the West Virginia Charleston Mission. “The service project kind of gets your mind off your family. You start thinking, ‘Hey, I’m going to be helping out these children.’ So it’s awesome.”

The LDS Church News is an official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The publication's content supports the doctrines, principles and practices of the Church.