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Thousands Sign up to Help the Hungry

Volunteers at Meals a Million
Volunteers at Meals a Million (Credit: Michele Skalicky)

The Springfield Expo Center was the site this weekend of the Friends Against Hunger Meals a Million Packathon.  5400 people were expected to have volunteered to pack food for those who are hungry by the time the event ended Sunday.

Karen Wood is founder of Friends Against Hunger, which started in Springfield in 2006 and since then has packed and shipped 5.5 million meals that have helped mainly children.  She says much of the food packaged this weekend won’t go too far away.

"A lot of this food will stay here in the United States to the local pantries in Springfield like The Kitchen, the Salvation Army and Convoy for Rural Compassion and things like that, but we also are sending one container load to the Philippines, one container load to Haiti and then a few pallets to Mexico," she said.

A container holds 280,000 meals, and a pallet contains 14,256 meals.

They’re designed for people who are severely malnourished and contain rice, dehydrated soy and vegetables and a protein packet.

Wood says the meals are sent to 20 organizations that help the hungry including organizations that help people in the Ozarks as well as Convoy of Hope, Lifeline Christian Ministries in Haiti and others.

It’s a festive atmosphere inside the packing room.  Hundreds of volunteers wearing hair nets and in some cases beard nets, plastic aprons and gloves stand side by side at long tables, each responsible for adding an ingredient to a bag held open by a fellow volunteer.  Other people are busy weighing the filled bags or packing them into boxes.

Ben Bowman is a student at Springfield Catholic High School, which brought two busloads of students to help out.

"We're doing good.  We're animals. We're packaging like crazy people right now," he said.

He and his classmates on student council were happy to be able to help.

"I hope that we're gonna help in time, you know.  Just these little individual efforts from everybody combined together could someday end the problem of hunger in the world," he said.

Another person helping at the Meals a Million Packathon was Mike Williams.  He’s in Springfield from Fort Worth, Texas for Skepticon, being held across the street at the University Plaza Convention Center.  He heard about the Friends Against Hunger event and signed up.

"I was kind of taking the weekend for myself, and I thought it would be kind of nice to  to take a couple hours and help out other folks.  Obviously, poverty and hunger is an absurdly deal across not just the U.S. but in other parts of the world, too, and spending a couple of hours getting food to folks who really need it  is a very small thing I can do to help out," he said.

The first Meals a Million Packathon last year resulted in 940,000 packaged meals.  The remaining ingredients were sent to Haiti to be used in hospitals.

Wood says they also need monetary donations.  The cost associated with the Packathon is $165,000 for things like ingredients, containers, the facility and more.  Friends Against Hunger still needs to raise $40,000 of that. 

To find out more about Friends Against Hunger or to sign up to help this weekend visit fahunger.org.

For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.