VINTON–The congregation at Thrasher Memorial United Methodist Church gathered on October 4 for their second year of “Stop Hunger Now.” Led by the youth, with the project organized by youth minister Bonnie Jones, the group packaged meals to feed 10,000 people in third world countries. October is World Action Hunger Month. October 4 was Youth Sunday at Thrasher.
Stop Hunger Now is an international hunger relief agency established in 1998. They estimate they have packaged 545,832 meals in the past week and almost 216 million meals since the program began. The meals have been shipped to 71 countries around the world.
On Sunday morning, there were several steps in the assembly-line process of putting the meals together from start to finish. Step One was combining rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables, and a flavoring mix of 23 essential vitamins and minerals into small plastic bags. Each bag makes six nutritionally-sound servings with a shelf life of about two years.
Step Two was the weighing of the bags to ensure enough ingredients and nutrients were included.
Step Three was the heat sealing of the bags to maintain quality until they reach their destinations.
Step Four was packing the bags into boxes of thirty-six, and then loading them onto a truck for transport to local headquarters in Lynchburg.
The entire process began with a prayer and a gong. Each time five boxes of meals were packaged, a gong was again sounded, usually by the children of the church.
It took a little over an hour to complete the project of assembling 10,000 meals.
According to their website, www.stophungernow.org, the organization supports school feeding, vocational training, and early childhood development programs, along with orphanages and medical clinics. Ten percent of the meals packaged each year to go crisis situations including natural disasters, conflict, and famine.
“Meal-packaging events are the heart of our work. They are a great way to educate volunteers about global hunger and inspire them to get more involved in fighting it. The events also give volunteers hands-on experience in leadership development, team-building, relationship-building, creative problem-solving, and goal-setting and achievement.”
The organization works with volunteers from corporations, faith congregations, schools, colleges and universities, and civic groups.
Stop Hunger Now representative, Iris Tuttle, said that the meals for the most part are delivered to ongoing school feeding programs. Providing a hot meal during the school day gives families an incentive to send their children to school—“they can learn and be fed at the same time.”
The organization believes the program can “sustain lifelong change. Through receiving a primary school education, the cycle of poverty can begin to be broken by leveraging change in many other issues including education, maternal health, childhood mortality, gender equality and combating HIV/AIDS.”
The organization, which is based in Raleigh, has received a four star rating from Charity Navigator as almost 88 percent of their donations go toward services and programs, with minimal overhead and administrative expenses.
Stop Hunger Now is one of many projects at Thrasher Memorial UMC. They keep their youth and adults busy throughout the year with mission projects locally, nationally, and abroad—“if you are a part of Thrasher, you are called to be in mission.”