Needham parish to hold 'packathon' of meals for Haiti

NEEDHAM -- Following the success of a similar event last year, the Justice and Peace Committee at St. Joseph Parish and the local Knights of Columbus are sponsoring a "packathon" event on April 30 and May 1, during which volunteers will package food to ship to the people of Haiti.

Ellen Benoit, a member of the parish's Justice and Peace Committee, said the parish has been supporting the people of Haiti throughout her more than 40 years there.

Already a historically poor nation, Haiti suffered from multiple crises in 2021, including the assassination of then-president Jovenel Moise in July and a devasting earthquake in August.

"Although Haiti is not front-page news right now, due to recurring natural disasters and political unrest, over 100,000 children are severely malnourished, and 30 percent of the population is threatened by famine and food insecurity," Benoit said.

For the past 10 years, St. Joseph Parish has been sending donations to the Center for the Rural Development of Milot, known as CRUDEM. Later renamed Haiti Health Promise, this nonprofit supports Hopital Sacre Coeur, a large hospital in the Milot region of northern Haiti. Benoit said the hospital is the largest employer in the area, staffed by local Haitian doctors and nurses. The parish's donations over the past decade have contributed to the building of a library for the hospital and paid for tuition for students to attend trade school, since there is no free education in Haiti.

CRUDEM has partnered with Feed the Hunger to organize "packathons," community events in which participants assemble nutritious meals that will be distributed to people in need. The meals include a carbohydrate, such as rice or pasta; a protein, such as soy or dehydrated pinto beans; dehydrated vegetables; and vitamin powder designed for malnourished children.

St. Joseph Parish held its first packathon in June 2021 at which 300 volunteers assembled 92,000 meals to be sent to the hospital in Milot.

Benoit said it was "a great multigenerational activity." Some families came with three generations of members, and one woman brought her daughter's soccer team.

"It was such a rewarding experience for the people who came," she said.

This year, their goal is to assemble 100,000 meals. In keeping with Feed the Hunger's model, volunteers will work in teams of 10 for two-hour shifts. The parish requests that children participating should be at least 10 years old.

In addition to seeking volunteers, the parish is also trying to raise $35,000 to pay for the meals, which cost about 35 cents each. Checks payable to CRUDEM may be sent to St. Joseph Parish at 1382 Highland Avenue, Needham, 02492.

The packathon will take place at the Needham Knights of Columbus Hall on April 30 and May 1. Volunteers can sign up for shifts at Questions can be directed to Ellen Benoit at or 781-444-1654.