“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one”. – Mother Teresa
I have always been committed to volunteering and giving back either locally or around the globe. Since having children my focus has been more on them and volunteering at their elementary school. Yet as they get older, there is less volunteer work needed so I decided it was time to branch out and find more volunteer opportunities locally.
One place I’d been longing to volunteer at is a fabulous non-profit faith-based organization called Feed My Starving Children (FMSC). Founded in 1987 in Minnesota by a Christian businessman, FMSC has produced nearly 900 million meals and shipped them to over 70 countries around the world. Last year alone, FMSC donated 191.6 million meals!
I had the pleasure of accompanying a good friend to FMSC November Gala and made a promise that I’d set aside some time to volunteer at one of their three packing plants here in town. I was inspired by their mission and their business model of volunteerism. Not one person is ever paid to pack a meal and no machines are used. Every single meal that goes out is hand-packed by volunteers around the United States (they have packing sites in Illinois and Arizona and mobile packing sites anywhere in the US). Furthermore, all meals are funded by donations.
Just to get an idea of the vastness of hunger, it is important to step back and look at the numbers. 1 in 8 people in the world go hungry every single day. That means almost 1 billion people do not eat each day. To me, it is utterly unimaginable.
Desiring to make a change and help save children around the world, FMSC began with the mission to combat global hunger in children by providing one of their three, highly nutritious meals each hand-packed and funded by volunteers and donation. In Minnesota, there are three packing facilities and they are open for volunteers Monday – Saturday from morning to evening. Each shift is two hours and it begins with a brief introduction to FMSC, the products we pack and how to do it.
I arrived at noon for my shift and was one for 45 packers that session. It was a light turnout yet that didn’t stop us from packing well more than average. We had three van loads of college students volunteering which added to the fun and energy of our work. After we watched the short video on how to pack, we divided into groups with four packing tables of about ten volunteers each. Each person had a specific duty. You could measure and dump one of the four ingredients into the funnel, hold the bag under the funnel to collect the food, weigh the bag, vacuum seal the bag or pack the bag into a box. Music was blasting and every time a table filled a box, the volunteers yelled the box number and everyone cheered. It was amazing!
By the end of an hour and a half, our group of 45 volunteers had packed 100 boxes. That meant 21,600 meals were packed! These meals would provide 59 children with food for a year. On average, each volunteer packs one box of food which is enough to feed a child for seven months and costs about $50. Our food specifically was headed to Uganda.
At the end of our packing, we had a wrap up presentation telling us more about what our volunteering did. I was amazed that such a small amount of time given could have such big results. It felt pretty special to be a part of it.
The story that stuck with me was of a little girl in the Philippines. Before FMSC intervened, at three years old she weighed only 14 pounds, the weight of a three-month old baby. Within seven months of FMSC program, she was up to a normal weight of 30 pounds for a toddler. It brought tears to my eyes.
We also had a chance to speak with the staff at FMSC. I was very curious about the program’s sustainability and why volunteers are used instead of machines. FMSC strongly believes in the power of helping and healing. Using volunteers not only is cheaper and more cost-effective, it adds a human touch and spirit in giving back. Children and adults can work together to help malnourished children. It is a powerful experience.
In terms of sustainability, FMSC works hard with community partners on the ground in each country. Each community must commit to one year of the program and it is FMSC’s belief that by having healthier children, the communities will thrive. Children will be able to go to school. Parents will be able to work instead of care for their sick children. Fewer children will die from being malnourished. And the list goes on.
FMSC also has a global marketplace that sells products from around the world. I featured their items in my “Gifts that Give Back” page. You can purchase anything from hand-woven scarves to fair trade coffee, beautiful baskets and other handicrafts. 90% of the revenue from these products goes back into FMSC to buy meals, and you are also helping the person who is making the product. It is another great way to give back.
I left FMSC feeling amazingly blessed. To know that my hands helped pack food to feed a hungry child for seven months, warmed my heart. Despite all the sadness in this world, we can each do something to give back and make the world a better place. And it feels great.
To learn more about Feed My Starving Children, click here.
FMSC has packing sites in the following places: Coon Rapids, MN – Chanhassen, MN – Eagan, MN – Tempe, AZ – Aurora, IL – Libertyville, IL – Schaumburg, IL.
They also have MobilePack events nationwide (where you can request the packing supplies, organize a group and pack them!).