The annual Silicon Slopes Summit hosted the Million Meals Project during the weeklong tech conference at Salt Palace in the second week of October. Lehi residents joined with other families in Utah to pack 250,000 macaroni and cheese meals for four in a massive service project that came together in just weeks thanks to a couple of Lehi.
“Normally we have six months’ notice and we can market it better. We weren’t even sure if they might even have the Summit or if it would be far away until July. With COVID, we weren’t sure if we could do a meal plan and have everyone in the same room until a month ago, ”said Mark Johnston. He and his wife, Lynne, facilitate the JustServe projects in northern Utah County. JustServe is a website, www.justserve.org, which connects community service projects with people who wish to serve.
“It is not just for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s something for communities across the country, ”said Mark.
The Johnstons reviewed the latest Silicon Slopes Summit Million Meals project in 2020 to organize the 2021 release, tweaking things to comply with COVID-19 restrictions. They used their JustServe connections to spread the word and tech company Brainstorm also informed 2020 attendees of the service project via email.
“Table after table, the little children worked hard. They were suggesting more efficient ways to package the macaroni, ”Lynne said.
“We were there for two days and at the end of the second day we spoke to a woman who was there with all of her children. One of her daughters came with a group of young people on the first day and insisted that they come back as a family. It’s cool how exciting it was for the kids, ”added Mark.
Volunteers checked into the Salt Palace and watched a three-minute video learning how to assemble packages of mac and cheese and wrap them for delivery to the Utah Food Bank, then put on hair covers and gloves and got to work. “I can’t believe we did this for an hour – it went so fast,” said a child who measured out a cup and a half of dry macaroni noodles and poured them into bags.
“The effect of these service projects is amazing, especially for the kids,” Lynne said. “A study has shown that serving friends and family helps children connect with the person they serve. However, when children serve strangers, it gives them self-confidence. “
“The Utah Food Bank was very happy to receive these meals. This year the food is only for Utah, and they’ll use it all up in just three or four months, ”Mark said. The Million Meals Project packed 850,000 meals last week. In 2020, they packed 1,350,000 meals, but the Johnston’s were impressed with the 2021 numbers despite all the odds.
“I think it’s cool that these companies are so service-oriented and are investing a lot of money to buy all of these services,” said Mark Johnston.