The team that operates The Pack Shack can throw a good party. To date, the organization has thrown more than 700 across the country. The twist? The parties address food insecurity, which The Pack Shack cofounder Bret Raymond says exists in every county in the U.S. Pack Shack party guests gather to assemble dehydrated meals using a funnel system.
“We crank up the music and just have a great time,” says Kyle Webb, one of several directors of the “Feed the Funnel” parties. “We have jobs for everyone ages three and older.”
Individuals, churches, nonprofits like the Derek Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation and corporations like Goldman Sachs have thrown parties to prepare the meals, which have a year-long shelf life. The hosts donate meals to organizations of their choice. Representatives from recipient organizations are invited to attend as well.
Since the first party in 2013, the organization has helped pack more than 15 million meals in more than 20 states. The Pack Shack has warehouses in two states in addition to its home base of Arkansas.
“It’s incredible what a team can do in a short amount of time,” Webb says. “We just had a party with North American Youth Congress, a student conference from the United Pentecostal Church, and saw 1,000 teenagers pack 20,000 meals in less than an hour.”
Every meal costs 25 cents. The hosts are responsible for setting a goal of how many meals to pack and then covering that fee. Webb says he’s seen groups implement creative fundraisers to pay for the meals, like school competitions to see which class can collect the most quarters.
Though The Pack Shack has no corporate sponsors, Webb says Tyson Foods has been a longtime friend of the organization. A Tyson chef developed the recipes for the meals, which are nutritious and cost efficient. Cheesy Vegetables and Rice is the first meal Pack Shack used, and recently the chef introduced a Pasta Parmesan entrée. The chef helped The Pack Shack develop a cookbook with nine additional recipes recipients can make with the leftovers plus a few additional inexpensive ingredients.
Webb says one host who stands out is a young girl named Lillian who threw a meal packing party for her 7th birthday, inviting her friends to bring cash and assemble with her. She’s continued the tradition for four other birthdays.
Webb says The Pack Shack tries to say yes to every possible request, traveling out of state for parties and working with groups as small as six and as large as 1,500. Currently he’s in talks with a team from a Baptist church in Kansas City about hosting a party and members from a local synagogue and mosque to participate.
“We try to be good stewards with the opportunities we’ve been provided,” he says. “We’ll party with anyone!”