United Way's 'Big Cheese III'

Event noted as record-breaking

United Way of Berks County's Big Cheese event continues to grow, and this year's effort, which will draw 1,000 volunteers to package 500,000 meals, has been noted as the largest event of its type organized by a United Way, as well as the largest food packing event by any organization in the country's Northeast area, according to The Outreach Program. The Outreach Program is the national nonprofit organization that organizes food packing events with local organizations across the country.

The Big Cheese III will span two days this year and takes place on the evening of Friday, June 16 and Saturday morning, June 17. The 1,000 volunteers include families, corporate teams and individuals, along with members of Emerging Leaders United, which consists of individuals ages 21 to 45 who desire to become more involved with community activities and United Way. Big Cheese volunteers will assemble 500,000 meals during the two-day event to help fight hunger within our community. Each meal package is nutritionally balanced to meet recommended dietary guidelines and includes all the dry ingredients to make six servings of mac and cheese. The packaged meals will be provided to the Greater Berks Food Bank, which will store and distribute the meals to local people in need. The packages have a two-year shelf life. Each meal costs 25 cents; costs were supported through United Way's community impact budget directed towards meeting basic needs and sponsorships.

“The Greater Berks Food Bank is pleased to be a part of United Way's event, and we greatly appreciate all of the volunteers packing the meals. Their efforts will make a significant difference in the lives of children and families across Berks County. During the summer months, we see an increase in need since children who receive weekday meals at school are now home. The meals provided through this event will make a major impact on our efforts to insure local children, and all of our neighbors in need, stay nourished in the coming months,” says Peg Bianca, executive director.

"It's been amazing to see the continued growth of the Big Cheese events. While we were optimistic we could secure 1,000 volunteers, we could not have imagined the response we received when we announced the event and opened the volunteer registration back in April. Over 1,000 individuals registered to participate within four days, and we had to establish a waiting list. We are in awe of the community's enthusiasm and energy around this event. Berks County is truly a special community," said Tammy White, president of United Way of Berks County.

A new component of this year's event is the opportunity to "sponsor" meals by texting the phrase, BigCheese, to the number 85511. Individuals can donate to help support the effort. For example, a $10 pledge sponsors 40 macaroni and cheese meals. The texting opportunity will remain open until June 22 for individuals to make their pledge.

The Big Cheese III is one of many volunteer projects occurring the weekend of June 17 as part of the national Day of Action when communities around the world come together to LIVE UNITED and take action to address a community challenge.

Date and Time: The Big Cheese III takes place on Friday night, June 16 (6 to 9 p.m.) and Saturday morning, June 17 (9 a.m. to noon).

Location: Penn State Berks, Beaver Community Center

Other: The community can follow the day's activities by following United Way of Berks County on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at #uwberks and #BigCheeseBerks