As a future nutritionist, wholesome, healthy food is obviously a cause close to my heart. As a mother, feeding my own children this kind of food is especially important. The sad reality for thousands of children all over the world, though, is that wholesome food–or, sometimes, any food–is impossible to come by. While we here in the U.S. may hear more about the obesity epidemic, world hunger continues to be a real problem, affecting countless children in heartbreaking ways. Sometimes it can feel like this is one of those overwhelming global issues we little individuals can do nothing about, but I’m happy to say that’s not quite true.
Since last May, I’ve been volunteering on about a monthly basis at an organization here in Mesa called Feed My Starving Children. It’s a Christian nonprofit that utilizes a volunteer workforce to pack a nutrient-rich mix of vitamins, vegetables, soy protein, and rice (as well as other formulas for infants) to send to hungry children all over the world. These food mixes are specially designed to meet the needs of even the most severely malnourished kids. (Here’s a look at their nutrition info.)
According to FMSC, over 6,000 children die every day of hunger and hunger-related causes. Showing up for a couple of hours a month helps me believe that it’s possible to be a part of the solution for the little ones who live so close to that line.
My involvement with FMSC started out as a service project my sons participated in through a Catholic boys’ club, and since then, my sister-in-law and niece have joined my sons and me each time for some food packing, family bonding, and teaching the kids the importance of serving the needy. I thought I would offer a write-up of what happens on a typical food packing session at Feed My Starving Children, as well as all the reasons it’s a great volunteer experience anyone can do. If you live in the Phoenix area, or one of several other locations throughout the country, I would encourage you to sign up to spend a little time there providing for the poorest of the poor around the world.
A Typical Food Packing Session:
Upon arriving at the FMSC facility, volunteers watch an instructional video on the assembly line process of filling food bags and packing them for shipment.
Everyone then scrubs up, dons their oh-so-attractive hairnets, and heads into the packing room.
Each person finds a place at a packing table, where they will perform one job throughout the session. Two people scoop ingredients into a funnel:
Two people open bags and place them under the funnel to receive the ingredients:
One person weighs each bag to make sure it is in the proper weight range for shipment:
The next person seals the bags shut, followed by a team of two people organizing the bags into piles and packing them into boxes.
Once a box is completed, everyone at the packing station calls out how many boxes they have filled. (“Table Four, Box Ten!”) After about an hour and a half of packing, the team cleans up and heads back to the orientation area to find out how many boxes were packed during that session and how many children they can feed for a year. It’s pretty uplifting to hear those numbers! One our visit last night, our group learned that the 121 boxes we packed (destined for orphans in North Korea) would provide 26,136 meals–enough to feed 71 children for a year!
On the way out for the evening, volunteers pass through the “marketplace,” which sells FMSC apparel and handmade goods created by people in the countries FMSC serves. One of these days I’m going to buy one of their super cute T-shirts!
Top 5 reasons why Feed My Starving Children is an ideal volunteer experience:
- Flexibility: It’s crazy easy to sign up (www.fmsc.org/volunteer), there are numerous packing sessions at various times throughout every day except Sunday. There are even jobs for those who can’t be on their feet for lengthy periods of time.
- Simplicity: No special skills are required to participate in a packing session. If you can scoop rice in a cup, you can volunteer at Feed My Starving Children.
- Fun: You can sign up with as big a group as you like, there is the freedom to talk while you pack, and they play upbeat music throughout the session, making for a fun environment. There’s also some friendly competition with other tables around you as you try to pack as many boxes as possible.
- Family: Kids as young as 5 can participate, if accompanied by an adult. As a parent, I know how hard it is to find meaningful volunteer work younger kids can do, so this is a great opportunity.
- Impact: Last year, FMSC packed and sent 229 million meals to hungry children. Each package of food they send contains six meals and each box contains 36 packages. That means in the 26 boxes our table packed, there were 5,616 meals for hungry kids. It’s an awesome feeling knowing you can play a part in giving children a chance at a better life through healthy nutrition!