On a cool Sunday morning in late winter, 65 Knights, Dames, Auxiliary members, and volunteers -- mostly children and grandchildren of members of the Order of Malta – gathered at St. Norbert Catholic Church in Orange County, California to prepare 10,000 meals for the hungry.

The operation was overseen by The Outreach Program of Union, Iowa, which has been assembling and packaging nutritious meals for the hungry for more than twenty years.  The Outreach Program was begun by a couple who, after vacationing in Tanzania, saw the tremendous need for nutritious, inexpensive, quality meals for the poor.  Today, 5 percent of the meals go overseas, the other 95 percent stays in the United States to feed the hungry poor in our nation.

The day began with an emotional welcome by the President of the Western Association, H.E. Ken Olsen, who graciously thanked all who were present for continuing the holy work of our founder, Blessed Fra' Gerard, in the tradition of our Order. President Olsen and his wife Mary Olsen were deeply touched by the members’ and volunteers’ enthusiastic support to serve those less fortunate. Their presence was very much appreciated by all.

On this day, the meal kits would each provide a nutritional breakfast of six servings of oatmeal. The Outreach Program furnished all the equipment and raw materials. Approximately six assembly tables were set up with two assembly lines each, with each line staffed by about five volunteers. The project was completed in just under two hours.

The Outreach Program How-To Recipe for 10,000 Breakfast Meals

5,000 raisin cinnamon oatmeal servings (800 bags)

5,000 apple cinnamon oatmeal servings (800 bags)

  • Rolled oats- 500 pounds
  • Oatmeal blend with vitamins – 6+ boxes
  • Raisin oatmeal - 850 packets
  • Raisins – 5+ cases
  • Dried apple dices- 32 pounds
  • Soy- 160 pounds
  • Meal bags
  • Scoopers
  • Funnels
  • Scales
  • Tape rollers

At each assembly line, one person scooped oatmeal to put in a funnel, estimating as closely as possible the 266 grams for each meal bag. The bag would then be handed to the weigher.  If within the two-gram tolerance, a bell would be rung. Oatmeal was added or taken out of the pouch, as needed, until the weight was within the tolerances.

“At first, we didn’t hear many bells, but we got a lot better as the packages continued to roll by,” said Patrick Powers, KM.


A box of raisins and an envelope of nutritional supplements were added to the meal kit. It was then sealed by a team member and passed along to be packed in a case. Other team members kept the line supplied with ingredients and stacked the completed boxes for storage.

“What made this activity especially heartwarming was that grandparents, adult children, grandchildren, and their friends were able to join in,” said Pat Powers. One family had eleven members present.  “It was a great way to introduce extended family to the works of the Order,” he added.

The Order of Malta was blessed to be able to contribute to St. Norbert’s Parish Food Bank. The food bank is one of the Orange Location Auxiliary’s principal works. “What an experience working side by side with the Order of Malta and the Auxiliary team. Working together with new faces and returning volunteers was amazing. Knowing that the work we are doing can make a difference in the lives of so many people in need fills my heart and keeps my hand busy and ready to continue answering the call to help those in need,” said Renee Sandoval, Orange County Auxiliary Treasurer.


Every Saturday the Auxiliary dispenses food to 225 families in need from 22 cities in Orange County. Special thanks to the Kasler Family Foundation who provided the funding for the workday and Michelle Navarro, who organized the event and chairs the food bank. The food bank was especially in need of breakfast items and this activity provided them with 10,000 servings for their clients.

“I am very grateful for all the Knights, Dames, Auxiliary Members, and volunteers who gathered with their families on a Sunday afternoon,” said Michelle, “The O.C. Auxiliary is a small but mighty group of dedicated people who show up consistently to help each week -- rain or shine!”


By Rowena Itchon, DM and Patrick Powers, KM