|Written by Mark Lineberger|
|Saturday, 01 October 2011 00:00|
In just a few short months, a new group in the Verde Valley has packaged nearly 40,000 meals for hungry people both here and in other countries.
The exact number is 38,664, said Karen Freeman, one of the organizers of the Verde Valley satellite of Kids Against Hunger, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the number of hungry children in the United States and abroad.
The Verde Valley group, which held its first food packaging event in April, is the only branch of the organization in Arizona.
Freeman said she and Kim Gould were inspired to join in the fight against hunger after a trip they took to Haiti following the devastating earthquake which rocked the tiny Caribbean nation in January 2010.
“[Kim had] been doing this for a couple of years,” Freeman said.
They hooked up with some missionaries and helped to operate a small school in the poor town of Jubilee Blanc, where feeding programs and medical programs were offered.
Freeman said one day they had enough rice to feed 150 people, but when she looked up she was shocked by the sight of “hundreds upon hundreds” waiting for food.
There was no shade, Freeman said, and many of the children didn’t even have clothes.
Struck by the sight, the organizers of the Verde Valley group started to raise money to do what they could and learned about Kids Against Hunger.
In one event in April, with the help of volunteers from the Verde Valley Leadership Group, they were able to package 28,000 meals. They call the group Kids Against Hunger not because adults are excluded, Freeman said, but because packaging the meals is something that children can participate in.
Freeman said they keep 15 percent of the food they collect for local food banks here at home while trying to get the rest to Haiti. Some of the other packaged meals have been sent to Mexico and Missouri.
The packages consist of rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and what Freeman calls a Kids Against Hunger “secret sauce” that contains 21 vitamins and nutrients.
The food is stacked on pallets and put on a truck bound for Florida, when the food for Haiti is shipped by boat and transferred to a secure warehouse. Prior to transit, a lot of the food is stored at Verde Valley Medical Center, Freeman said.
A single truck can hold 40 pallets of food, Freeman said. In two hours, 25 people can package 7,100 meals at a cost of 25 cents apiece.
The group runs with the help of volunteers, Freeman said, but they are always looking for other people and organizations to bring money to the table, money used to get the food to those who need it.
“Our goal is to feed the hungry and starving locally and around the world,” Freeman said. “We love the work, and we want to change lives.”
The group has two smaller events planned, one on Saturday, Oct. 8, with the help of local churches and another Sunday, Nov. 13, at the Sedona Community Center with the help of Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Boys & Girls Club.
The group’s goal is to have packaged a total of 50,000 meals by the end of the year.
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