By Brett Hetherington*
For the past five years the East Ohio Conference Young People’s Ministries has sponsored Project Feed, an event where teens and youth leaders, pastors, parents and other volunteers gather to assemble simple meals that are distributed to third-world countries across the globe.
This year there were Project Feed events held in two different districts, one at the West Elementary School in the Three Rivers District on Saturday, November 16, and the other at Wadsworth Middle School in the Canal District on Sunday, November 17.
I was able to attend the Project Feed hosted in Newcomerstown. For a little over two hours, approximately 80 teens and adults (approximately 420 at Sunday’s event) lined tables where they sifted dried food into bags, weighed and sealed those bags and packed them into boxes. Upbeat music playing in the gym, impromptu sing-alongs, added to the general air of merriment as two generations of Christians worked together packing meals waiting – all the while waiting to cheer the sound of the gong that signified they were a step closer to achieving their goal.
Conference Council on Youth Ministries (CCYM) Chairperson Gwen Avery has been involved with Project Feed since the beginning and is proud of the work that the East Ohio Conference youth are doing to benefit others.
“We are here to pack meals for third-world countries for those that are less fortunate than us because God has blessed us with the ability to do so, and we feel like it’s our responsibility as His followers to spread His word to others.”
East Ohio Conference Young People’s Ministries partners with Rise Against Hunger for Project Feed. Rise Against Hunger is a nonprofit hunger relief organization that has a goal to eradicate hunger by 2030.
“This is actually a goal that the UN (United Nations) has,” shared Elizabeth Bradford, the Rise Against Hunger representative who oversaw this year’s event.
“Rise Against Hunger works in approximately 30 countries with faith-based organizations and NGOs who let us know where and when they need meals. Rise Against Hunger has containers which house approximately 385,000 meals, and when we get a request for a container, we send one out to whichever country needs it. The requesting agency then oversees the distribution. We have found that distribution is the largest impediment to getting food to individuals. Hunger is a massive issue but it’s not a lack of food. The problem is getting food to people.”
The meals packed at Project Feed are made of soy, rice, vegetables, and a micro-nutrient packet that includes 22 essential nutrients. Each bag that is packed contains six servings. Families receiving the meal packet typically mix its contents with seasonings, meat, and other ingredients to really make it their own. This does more than just personalize the meals, it also helps stretch them even further providing their family with a nutritional healthy and filling meal that will provide for their family for more than just one day.
Bradford shared that 40% of the meals that Rise Against Hunger collects typically go to school meal programs in the country to which they are sent. Providing the meal to the children at school will allow the family to free up a small portion of their personal finances to provide for the family in other areas.
Some of the adults who were at this year’s Project Feed shared how impressed they were with the heart the group shared, stating that they like the unity of it all.
“We all come from different aspects, but we all have the same goal. It’s nice to see the teamwork,” was one thought shared from an adult who had just helped wrestle a pallet loaded with nearly 12,000 meals.
One group of young women shared that this is their fourth year being involved but the first time they have all been together in the same location. Their favorite part of the event was seeing how many meals are completed because while they are packing, it does not seem like they are packing a lot. But seeing the numbers add up at the end is amazing.
This year between both events approximately 100,000 meals were packaged and sent out by teens and adults volunteering their time.
“People sometimes worry the money they donate or the time they donate is not being used properly and not going where it is supposed to go. But Rise Against Hunger puts all of the organizations that we work with through a vetting process to ensure that the meals get to the recipients we’re packaging them for. Sometimes the meals have to go through an area that’s being ravaged by war, sometimes natural disaster, other times it’s just a remote location. But in every instance, we work to make sure that every meal gets to where it’s supposed to go.
“Our goal is to get beyond providing the meals but to work with organizations that provide sustainable programs helping individuals to learn how to grow their own food and to grow resources and abilities that will allow them to provide in their own communities and to reach out and provide in other communities around them” said Bradford.
At the end of the event Bradford closed by sharing a quote: “the greatness of community is measured by the genuine actions of its people.” This quote is especially true for this group of teens and adults from across the Three Rivers and Canal Districts. as they gave up a Saturday and a Sunday afternoon to share the love of Christ in a very tangible way, packing meals for those who are not able to procure the meal for themselves.
To learn more about Rise Against Hunger you can visit their website at www.riseagainsthunger.org.
If you have a story of how God is using your local church to transform the community, please contact us at email@example.com. The East Ohio Conference Communications team wants to tell your story.
*Brett Hetherington is the Communications specialist for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.