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Help needed in fight against hunger

Published 12:23am Friday, January 17, 2014

The scene at last year’s Stop Hunger Now campaign at Ebenezer United Methodist Church was a heart-warming one.

It was also a frenetic one. Volunteers packaged about 52,000 meals, North Suffolk Rotary Club President Wendy Hosick told me this week, and I suppose one doesn’t achieve something like that by kicking back and watching football.

In fact, what went on inside the church’s Family Life Center bore close resemblance to a major relief operation in the midst of a tragedy.

That may well be because that’s what it was. While many of us don’t think much of scraping whatever doesn’t agree with our taste buds off our plates and into the trash on a regular basis, those 52,000 meals helped families in undeveloped countries simply survive.

A great thing about Stop Hunger Now is the organization behind it, which means folks can show up at the Eclipse church at 8 a.m. on Feb. 1 — when this year’s campaign takes place — and give a few hours of their time knowing it will have a real impact.

The international hunger relief agency started in 1998, creating the meal-packaging program that will be in full flight at Ebenezer in 2005.

It’s a kind of assembly line where rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a flavoring mix, all containing 21 vitamins essential to good nutrition, are combined in small plastic bags.

Each meal costs 25 cents, and each plastic bag, which has a shelf life of two years, feeds a family of six.

The agency uses international partners to distribute meals where they’re needed most, and it says that more than 70 percent of its meals support “transformational development programs,” including school feeding, vocational training and early childhood development programs, as well as orphanages and medical clinics.

“Working with these programs helps enhance lives by giving beneficiaries the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty through education, skills development and health care while also receiving much needed nutrition,” the agency says.

You can sign up to help out on Feb. 1 by emailing Phillip Ford at spepa.ford@gmail.com. Ford is with North Suffolk Rotary, which sponsors the local effort.

Hosick, the club’s president, said the goal this year is 100,000 meals, which would require more volunteers than the 300-odd in 2013.

“We’ll need that and a few more this year, so it can be extended,” she said.

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