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The Springfield-based not-for-profit group Friends Against Hunger has set a pretty lofty goal: it's aiming to pack and send out over one million meals for people in Springfield and around the world. Volunteers, many from local universities, will package two different vegetarian meals loaded with vitamins and minerals in early November. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark has more.
It's called the "Meals a Million Pack-a-Thon, and the organization has a goal to package 1,111,111 meals at the event. During each two hour volunteer shift, 130 volunteers will arrange about 184,000 dried meals that will be distributed in the U.S., Haiti, El Salvador and Mexico.
Karen Wood, director of Friends Against Hunger, says the organization will keep about 200,000 meals to distribute locally.
“It’s the first time we’ve done anything this big in a single weekend. We’ve had packaging events, but we’ve never tried to do one million meals in three days.”
Wood says the most her organization has ever packaged is 100,000 meals in a single day, but she has faith that the organization will meet its goal.
“We have over 3,000 volunteers—about 3,500 volunteers right now. We need about 4,500, but we just feel like the community has really gotten behind the project. They’re willing to help us out and help us raise money and come to package the meals, so I have no doubt we’re going to make it.”
The majority of those volunteers are tied to local colleges and universities.
“We are partnering with MSU, Drury and Southwest Baptist [University]. All of those colleges are coming together to help us package meals during this event, as well as the general public, and local churches and organizations.”
She says MSU has already recruited close to 400 volunteers for the project.
The group will be packaging two different dehydrated meals: a nutrient-rich rice and bean casserole and a fortified macaroni and cheese. Both are vegetarian, and are made with soy for extra protein. One meal costs the organization $.16 to produce.
“It’s a special meal that’s been formulated for people who have been undernourished for quite some time. It’s made up of soy and rice and beans and dehydrated vegetables, and then a packet that contains vitamins and minerals and amino acids, as well has a flavoring. It is a vegetarian meal, so it’s widely accepted around the world.”
She says she’s talked with local food pantries, and many of them tell her they're seeing more people in need than they ever have before.
She says the downturn of the national economy hasn’t just affected people here--it’s affected many nations that depend on the U.S., including places these meals will travel to.
The event will be November 9th, 10th and 11th at the Springfield Exposition Center. On Friday, packaging starts at 2:00 p.m. and goes til 8:00 p.m. Saturday, volunteers will work all day, starting at 8:00 a.m. and ending at 8:00 p.m. Sunday, volunteers will package from 10:00 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Wood says prospective volunteers can go to www.fahunger.org to learn more.
For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.