“All right, the saints should be marching in any minute!” the Rev. Steve Deal called out just before volunteers arrived to pack food yesterday.

Deal is a “chef,” or certified hunger event facilitator, for Stop Hunger Now, an international hunger relief agency based in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“My main mission is to engage volunteers, whether it be in the church or in universities and schools, businesses, Fortune 500 companies, and help them to help us package meals,” he said.

Each package contains four ingredients: one cup of white rice, one cup of soy protein, one heaping tablespoon of dehydrated vegetables and one vitamin pack containing 21 essential vitamins and minerals specifically put together for the children that will consume the meals. The meals are then sent around the world to countries such as Haiti, Nicaragua, Malawi, Honduras and Sudan — and only cost 25 cents each.

“This will help to not only feed kids, but change their lives and their destinies,” Deal said while briefing volunteers.

Monday’s goal was to package 24,840 meals. With the help of about 300 volunteers from the New Wilmington Mission Conference — meeting here July 19-26 — that goal was met in just two and a half hours. For each box completed, a gong was hit with a resounding cheer from volunteers.

“I’m excited to help people,” said 8-year old volunteer Madison McClelland. “This food is going to people that need help around the world.”

Because of the wide variety of tasks involved, volunteers of all ages can help pack food for the program. Grandparents worked alongside elementary school students at yesterday’s event.

“We do this every year, and it’s a lot of fun,” said Mission Conference regular Ben Houston. “I love doing it.”