Last week, during their summer Vacation Bible School program at , a group of 200 pre-K through 6th graders accomplished quite a feat. They, along with over 90 youth and adult helpers, packaged 10,000 meals for Stop Hunger Now. Each meal feeds six people, so in the course of five summer mornings, they provided food for 60,000 people in third-world countries.
The food packages, which consist of soy protein, dehydrated vegetables, rice, and a vitamin/mineral supplement, were made assembly-line fashion. Groups of five or six children with a helper gathered around a funnel with food bags and bulk bins of the ingredients. Hairnets were donned and hands were sanitized, and then bags were packed. While the goal of 10,000 seemed lofty at first, the kids easily accomplished it. Many games of “Simon Says” were played as groups finished before the time for their rotation was up.
"Watching the children pack meals was one of the most extraordinary things I have ever seen," said TFUMC Youth Director Amanda Henley. "When you hear that a group of kids ages four - 11 are going to pack 10,000 meals in five days, you think "What?! How?!" Everything worked like clockwork. The children learned the value of teamwork and came in ready to work every day. They jumped in and got the job done AND finished early. The organization was terrific, and we look forward to working with them more in the future!"
As far as the inevitable spills that happen when kids as young as four are funneling rice? Not to worry. Kyle Galenski, program manager of Stop Hunger Now, explained that the spilled rice and protein was to be gathered up and boxed separately to feed the livestock in the villages where the food would be sent. So, “be careful, but a little spill is okay,” he said.
According to their web site, Stop Hunger Now is “an international hunger relief organization that coordinates the distribution of food and other life-saving aid around the world. The organization is driven by a vision of a world without hunger and a mission to end hunger in our lifetime by providing food and life-saving aid to the world’s most vulnerable and by creating a global commitment to mobilize the necessary resources.”
Volunteers raise money to pay for and then package dehydrated meals that are used to feed families in crisis situations (such as the Haiti earthquake) and in school feeding programs and orphanages in developing countries. By supporting the school feeding programs, Stop Hunger Now believes it has the ability to affect lifelong change. Providing a hot meal during school gives parents an incentive to send their children to school, they say. By receiving a primary school education, the cycle of poverty can begin to be broken by leveraging change in other areas including education, maternal health, childhood mortality, gender equality, and HIV/AIDS prevention and education.
Each dehydrated rice/soy packet includes a “vitamin packet” fortified with 21 essential vitamins and nutrients. One in three people in developing countries are adversely affected by vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Each meal packet, which feeds six people, costs 25 cents to produce, so in addition to packaging the meals, TFUMC VBS participants needed to raise $2500 to pay for their meals. They made it a game, dividing into four age groups and bringing change and bills in every morning of the week and dropping them into their respective bowl. The plan was to ask the church family to help supplement if necessary. The end result? The kids didn’t raise the $2500. They raised $2,665.17.
To sum it up, Mimi Sanders, Director of Children and Family Ministry at TFUMC, said, “this was a great experience for our children to tangibly give a gift to children in another country. Our VBS always tries to sponsor organizations that benefit children. They were so excited each day to participate, and they were disappointed when we completed the project! They would have packed meals all day!”