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Pay It Forward: Volunteer Food Packaging Project

Posted by Shannon on 05/15/2011

The idea to volunteer came from my friend Amanda, who picked up the Feed My Starving Children flyer (below) while she was at church last month.  I was immediately down to go! A way for “the foodie photographer” to expand my passion for food plus volunteering during a national volunteerism day?

Big Sunday 2011: Feed My Starving Children organization

After a brief video and a thank you from the FMSC group, we went into the work room for a tutorial from Evan.

Team Leader Evan preachin the proper process
“Chicken (flavor), (dried) Vegetables, Soy (protein) & Rice”

The Manna Pack is a small, easy to make all-in-one meal that simply goes into boiling water to prepare. They have the basic food groups and are vegetarian safe, with added vitamins and minerals in the mix, specifically for the young children who are the primary benefactors of these meals. Assembly line order is always “chicken, vegetables, soy, rice” it was kind of like our little cult chant since it was so important in their process. Their FMSC site lists the reasons each ingredient was selected:

  1. “Rice, the most widely accepted grain around the world.

  2. Extruded soy nuggets, providing maximum protein at lowest cost.

  3. Vitamins, minerals and a vegetarian flavoring to give growing children the critical nutritional elements they need.

  4. Dehydrated vegetables for flavor and nutrition.”

One pack provides six meals and costs about $1.44 to produce

Our eight-person crew consisted of two people preparing the bags under the funnel for the other two who ladled in the four ingredients. The first two then weight the Manna Packs on a food scale to keep all at a total weight of 380-400 grams.

They passed the bags to me and Amanda to level out, heat seal and stack into 18 piles of two.  The last two in our “Table #4 Crew” packed our finished boxes.

Thirty-six packs to a box

With six (6) servings per bag, each box shipped off has 36 bags…or 216 meals. The team vibe was easy-going and there was even a DJ there to keep us pumped up! At the end of the two hours we gathered back together and Evan announced the day’s total:

  • The group packed 98 boxes (three palates) in two hours
  • A total of 21,168 meals boxed up
  • At one meal per day, the meals will feed 57 children for the next full year
  • Table #4 packed up 23 boxes, or 4,968 meals


Headed to empty bellies worldwide…

That morning was the best use of two hours on a Saturday I’ve had in the last few weeks. In addition, I couldn’t help but walk away from the experience feeling humbled that those small bags of food are heading out to multiple countries where children go without eating and struggle to find food.

In 2011, an average of more than 1,500 children die of starvation each day. I am grateful for the enlightening perspective, as well as the chance to contribute to a group dedicated to combating the problem.

The morning renewed my drive to more vividly document and fully enjoy the foods available to me for this writing project too.

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