Malnutrition and hunger are global problems that may seem overwhelming, but every effort makes a difference to someone.
This year, it’s easier than ever to make a difference. Kids Against Hunger, a community meal-packing event, takes place Saturday, Oct. 22, at Verde Valley Fairgrounds, with packing sessions from 8 to 10:30 a.m., 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 2 to 4:30 p.m.
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The Kids Against Hunger packages contain nutritious meals for starving and malnourished families in developing countries and the U.S. Each meal is a base mix for meal preparation, containing ingredients that keep for three years and only require boiling in water to prepare. According to the organization, “despite the simplicity of the food’s content, it is a nutritionally complex and well balanced meal.”
Local Kids Against Hunger Director Karen Freeman, the effort began in 2010 after an earthquake devastated populations in Haiti but has since expanded into Arizona’s only satellite program of the larger Kids Against Hunger organization.
“As a nonprofit, entirely volunteer-driven group, we must first raise funds and solicit donations to purchase the bulk food products and packing supplies that we need and pay shipping costs to get them here from headquarters,” Freeman said. “We then organize events where people of all ages, 8 years old and up, come together and in an assembly line fashion pack our dry food product for the hungry.
“What we really do, however, is provide a hands-on opportunity for people to come together and be a part of something bigger than themselves .... It satisfies the hunger we all have within, to make a difference.”
According to Freeman, Verde Valley’s Kids Against Hunger is one of the few satellites who “follow the food” delivered by the United States National Guard of Phoenix to Haiti yearly, overseeing its distribution and assessing local community needs. On Friday, Nov. 4, Freeman is taking a small team to the country to evaluate the program’s impact and help alleviate the devastation of Hurricane Matthew.
“We also realized several years ago that there are hunger needs here at home in Yavapai County,” Freeman added. “To that end, we are now also packaging a local Latin rice-and-beans product, which is being distributed to over 40 emergency food providers, schools, seniors and vets throughout Yavapai County by our collaborative partner, Yavapai Food Council.”
Regarding the Oct. 22 event, Freeman reported that, “With over 670 packing volunteers and 150 working volunteers, we plan to pack 300,000 meals. We will be packing two types of meals, our local Latin rice and beans, and our international rice-meal packet. At the cost of 25 cents per meal, each meal bag packed feeds six for $1.50 per bag. Over 50 percent of the meals we pack stay here in Yavapai County.”
Freeman said that the packing sessions are now registered full, but that walk-ins are welcome to show up.
“Walk-ins must be willing to be flexible, wait until we see if we have open spots and we could possibly fit them in. It would be best to call (928) 649-5772 to be put on our waiting list. We also invite folks to just stop by and see what we are all about also.”