MEDINA TWP. — Medina’s Presbyterian Church was abuzz with activity as members packaged 20,000 meals to benefit individuals in need around the world.
“People love this. This is the most fun you can have during a Christian service,” the Rev. Henry Pearce said Sunday. “People sing together, they dance together, and for Presbyterians that’s pretty unusual.”
Pearce said this is the third year the congregation at 5020 Burgundy Bay Blvd. has worked with Rise Against Hunger to provide meals to those in need.
Brady Smith of the organization’s Pittsburgh office said Rise Against Hunger provides humanitarian food relief and operates out of 25 cities across the United States.
“As an organization, we did just over 70 million meals last year. Hopefully this year we are looking closer to 85 million,” he said.
Each meal is made up of dry ingredients, including dry soy, rice, dehydrated vegetables and a nutritional packet from Kraft-Heinz containing 18 essential vitamins and minerals.
Churchgoers stood at the ready near stations set up with all of the meal components as Smith explained the production process.
“Every single bag needs to weigh between 389 and 394 grams,” Smith told the group.
Smith said meals provided by Rise Against Hunger have been shipped to nearly 70 countries, including Turkey, Guatemala, Nicaragua, the Philippines and several in Africa.
“The meals that you packed (last year) were shipped to Malawi and helped 3,600 school-aged students eat two meals a day for an entire year,” Smith said. “You did that. You were part of that.”
Pearce said the church raises funds for the food-packing event through the sale of candy during the Christmas season.
“People love the candy,” he said. “There is something about making something we eat to help fund efforts to help hungry people eat around the world that just seemed right to us.”
Event coordinator Diane Thomas said the meals can mean a better education for girls in some developing nations.
“The thing that gets me is a lot of the meals go to education programs in other countries and what happens is when the education programs feed children, girls are sent to school,” Thomas said.
Smith said that by participating in Rise Against Hunger, churches, corporations and community organizations can be a part of the humanitarian effort from start to finish.
“A lot of the churches, they start to fundraise for an event like this and then they all come,” he said. “It is their hands on the meals that are packaging them. Nobody touches the meals after they get put into these boxes until they are being prepared.”
Thomas said the church was able to raise nearly $6,000 through its fundraising efforts and that each meal costs 29 cents. The number of volunteers participating this year was not immediately available, but Thomas said there were 89 volunteers for the inaugural event and 104 volunteers last year.
“They are an ongoing partner with us,” Smith said of Medina Presbyterian. “They will find out exactly where their meals go in the world, the program that it goes to, how they are being used. It is a pretty unique experience.”