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Volunteers put together 100,000 meals for malnourished children

Lauren Leone-Cross
2/3/2014  8:00 am

This article was published in the City and State section of the State Journal Register on Nov. 10, 2013 and was written by Lauren Leone-Cross. The article can be found on the SJR website.

Meal Packing Volunteer

Sandy Haseley, left, and Angie Herring with Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Decatur dance to the song Y.M.C.A. as they fill fortified meal formula packs during a Feed My Starving Children MobilePack event at The Recreation and Athletic Center at University of Illinois Springfield Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. Event organizers planned to make 100,000 meals, each consisting of dried vegetables, soy protein and rice, during the two day effort. Ted Schurter/The State Journal-Register

It was not a typical Saturday for Long Duong.

He found himself in an assembly line at University of Illinois Springfield, scooping dried vegetables, rice, soy, and powdered nutrients into plastic bags.

“This is the best way to spend a Saturday. With friends, it’s even more fun,” Duong said as he carefully leveled two more scoopfuls of vegetables and nutrients before pouring the contents into a bag.

The 23-year-old college student was among 500 volunteers who gathered at the UIS Recreation and Athletic Center on Friday and Saturday to pack 100,000 meals for hungry children across the world.

The MobilePack event was hosted by Feed My Starving Children, a Minnesota-based Christian organization that relies solely on volunteers to assemble nutritionally complete meals designed to curb malnutrition and prevent starvation.

Volunteers during the two-day event worked in shifts to assemble “MannaPacks,” which are then sealed and packed into boxes. The boxes are distributed to orphanages, schools, health clinics and food programs in 70 countries that the organization routinely serves.

The Feed My Starving Children event at UIS was the first of its kind to be held in Springfield, said Philip Witkop, the event’s volunteer coordinator. Witkop said he was inspired to see students, church organizations and individuals come together for a greater cause.

“I believe my faith compels me to look beyond the walls of what’s established in just regular, everyday living, and look at some of the bigger problems of the world,” Witkop said. “It’s in the spirit of reaching out to other people.”

A physician at St. John’s Hospital emergency room, Witkop said he appreciates the science behind the development of a simple, yet life-saving, meal. Each meal costs just 22 cents to make, he said.

“To me, it puts together faith and science in a very real way,” Witkop said. “As a doctor and a person that appreciates science and technology and efficiency, (I believe) when you combine that with faith, you’ve got a good product that’s helping a lot of people.”

Each box, which holds 36 bags, can feed a child for up to seven months, said Carol Wild, 28, team leader for the MobilePack event.

“We don’t just drop off food once and never go back,” Wild said. “We return so that we can see how the kids are doing. It’s so they know that they have that food coming, and they can have that security.”

That sense of security is what allows severally malnourished children in developing countries to ultimately turn their efforts away from mere survival and shift their focus toward an education, Wild said.

“Food is the foundation because without food, it’s really hard to focus on school. All they can focus on is where is their next meal coming from and how are they going to survive,” Wild said. “With food, that’s taken care of. They don’t have to worry about that. They can go to school every day. They can focus on the future.”

 Feed My Starving Children

The faith-based organization was founded in 1987 after a Minnesota businessman, Richard Proudfit, visited Honduras on a mission trip. It was there that Proudfit noticed children starving all around him, prompting him to pursue a fight against hunger. It wasn’t until Proudfit pooled several scientists and a number of food industry companies that the meal formula was developed as a method to address the world’s main hunger needs.

In 2012 alone, volunteers across the U.S. had created 163 million hand-packed meals.

The nonprofit is among the nation’s two-percent most trustworthy charities, earning Charity Navigator’s highest rating for eight straight years.

For more information, visit www.fmsc.org.