The passion of one couple in Grand Junction, Colo., sparked a churchwide interest in an effort that will feed thousands of malnourished children.
Don and Jeannine Maier found out about an opportunity for First Presbyterian Church of Grand Junction (FPCGJ) to help provide meals to children in numerous countries around the globe, and they pitched their ideas to fellow church members. Seeking the opportunity to help, the congregation backed the idea and created 40,000 meals on Oct. 13 to help Kids Against Hunger provide sustenance for malnourished youngsters.
FPCGJ Pastor Tom Hansen said the outpouring of support by the 490-member Presbyterian Church (USA) congregation was tremendous, from financial assistance to the men, women, boys and girls who actually spent two hours of their Sunday afternoon filling, sealing and packing the meals that will be used to feed hungry children in places like Haiti and Burkina Faso in eastern Africa.
“There was a lot of early interest, and we felt like it was a good turnout,” said Jansen, noting that approximately 150 people donned hair nets and manned filling stations to prepare the meals in two shifts totaling approximately five hours of work time. “For the first time doing this project, we thought it was a very good turnout. I’m very impressed by who (Kids Against Hunger) are and what they are about.”
Hansen said the Maiers were pivotal in pulling off the meal packaging endeavor.
“It’s really a major production,” he said, noting that the church has had a global partnership to assist an orphanage in Uganda for a number of years but opted to participate in this meal program because of its benefits to malnourished children at home and abroad. “Don and Jeannine were the driving force behind this. They found out about the organization and ran with it. They didn’t do it for any notoriety, only out of their concern for others.”
Kids Against Hunger
Started in 1999, Kids Against Hunger is a humanitarian food-aid organization based in New Hope, Minn., that strives to reduce the number of hungry children in the United States and to feed starving children around the world.
Achieving that goal is done through the packaging of a highly nutritious, vitamin-fortified, soy-rice casserole by volunteers at numerous locations in America and Canada, and the distribution of those meals to starving children and their families in more than 60 countries through partnerships with humanitarian organizations worldwide.
Volunteers with Kids Against Hunger’s food packaging centers across the United States packaged 40 million meals for needy children and their families around the world and around the corner last year alone.
The meals offer all nine of the essential amino acids required for complete nutrition. They are comprised of white, long-grain rice, vitamin-fortified crushed soy, a dehydrated blend of six vegetables along with a blend of vitamin and mineral powder.
Each bag of food contains six servings of the dehydrated mixture that will feed six children when mixed with water and boiled. It provides a much-needed meal – with a shelf life of three years – as well as better health to starving children. The three-ply storage bags are made from moisture-proof and odor-proof material to prevent spoilage and insect or rodent problems.
The packaging process is an assembly-line type of production that sees all the components properly proportioned to form each individual bag. They then are sealed and packed, ready for shipment to those in need of them.
Hansen said that FPCGJ’s shifts used 33 50-pound bags of soy and two tons of rice as the basis for the meals.
Making provisions for those in need
The congregation budgeted a total of $10,000 to pay for approximately three tons of ingredients needed for the meals. Special donations helped greatly as did an offering of $1,700 collected during Vacation Bible School over the summer.
The timing of the event coincided with the culmination of a five-week sermon series on Biblical justice at the church. Hansen said the two went hand in hand.
“It’s about treating people the way God thinks they should be treated and following a Scriptural mandate,” he said. “This was not just done because we should be good to people. It’s about doing what Scripture says instead of following the culture we live in.
“It was very fulfilling to know we were working in such joy and rooted in Scripture rather than just being good people doing good things. This is showing God’s heart and how we should be His hands and feet, giving justice to the widowed, poor and immigrants.”
Working together to carry out ‘The Golden Rule’
The packing stations and other work associated with preparation of the meals crossed generational lines, letting young and old alike work side by side to help others, something that seemed to fill the hearts of those assisting.
“You could see the joy as people, young and old, worked together,” Hansen said. “The excitement had been building, and you could see it as they worked together. We know these meals are truly going to the poor, those people who are in danger of not making it. It’s a good feeling to know we can make a difference.”
Hansen said the dedication to the project, from the Maiers to those who packed, sealed and prayed, was a matter of carrying out “The Golden Rule.”
“Love your neighbor,” he said of the greatest reason for taking on the task of packaging meals for the hungry. “Our church has developed a good reputation of service because we truly care for our community. We’re not just a church doing this out of obedience to Christ and Scripture but because we want to carry out the Scripture we believe. We are trying to be the people God has called us to be.”