FORT WALTON BEACH — Over the course of six hours, roughly 1,000 volunteers worked together Saturday to bag more than 100,000 meals that will be distributed to area food pantries.

The United Way of Okaloosa & Walton Counties hosted the third annual Feed the Need food packing event with the Okaloosa County Teachers Federal Credit Union and the Gregg Chapel AME Church.

The local United Way has adopted the event, held at the Gregg Chapel Life Center, to ensure local food banks and nonprofit agency pantries in the two-county area have access to a variety of nutritious and filling food alternatives.

“I am humbled and amazed at the overwhelming generosity of our community; clearly huge events of this nature would not happen were it not for their support,” said Rick Owen, president and CEO of the United Way of Okaloosa & Walton Counties. “This event shows how our community comes together to surround an issue and fights as a unified team to solve a problem. Many parents will be able to feed their families because of the generosity of these sponsors, donors and volunteers.”

Volunteers worked in teams of 10 throughout the day in 90-minute shifts to assemble meal packages to feed people in Okaloosa and Walton counties. A DJ kept the energy up by playing upbeat music, and teams celebrated the completion of filling each box by cheering and ringing a bell.

Trucks from local food banks such as Catholic Charities and Sharing and Caring and food pantries such as The Matrix, Opportunity Place and others were on hand to receive the tomato-basil pasta and cheesy rice meals that will help fill their shelves and help the community.

For more information and volunteer opportunities with the United Way, go to or