Local church packages 22,896 meals for Ugandan children

by Morgan Smith

Volunteers at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church bag 22,896 meals for Stop Hunger Now. (Morgan Smith/MIM photo)

In an attempt to fight global hunger, a local church opened its doors last weekend to the Mountain Island and Huntersville community, packaging 22,896 meals for children in Uganda.
“Its lovely to just do an intergenerational sort of outreach event for our own people, but to provide that for other folk, to come and experience that same sense of good and purpose – it’s wonderful and easily done,” said Sarah Hollar, rector St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church partnered with Stop Hunger Now, an international relief organization based in Raleigh whose vision is a world without hunger. The church donated $6,000 and 62 volunteers in order to assemble packages of rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a flavoring mix that includes 21 essential vitamins and minerals. Stop Hunger Now created these packages and a quick assembly line process in order to provide meals that transport quickly and store easily. The packages also have a shelf life of five years.
Stop Hunger Now’s initiative is primarily focused on keeping children in school and aiding during crisis. Victoria Gonzalez, a Stop Hunger Now part-time volunteer, said the organization believes children are often pulled out of school in order to beg or work for food, depriving them of education. By providing these meals at school, Stop Hunger Now enables children, helping to deter the cycle of poverty.
“The meals are specially formulated for kids that are malnourished. If they are fed and not hungry, then they are able to focus on their school work and not hunger, performing well in school,” Gonzalez said. “Its 25 cents per meal, so we can feed many with little.”
Stop Hunger Now also provides food during major disasters. Last year, St Mark’s packaged over 10,000 meals that were sent to Haiti after the earthquake.
Hollar said the outreach project was important because of the theology of the Episcopal Church.
“Jesus Christ gave us a church to be a gift. When he left this world, he said, ‘If you want to be followers of mine, you can’t do it alone,’” she said. “Love God with all your heart, soul and mind. Love your neighbors as yourself – that’s easily said, but really hard to do every single day.”
St. Mark’s has around 170 families in its congregation. Hollar said it is important for these families to support each other in outreach.
“How can we go deeper in our life with Christ? Well, part of that is being His hands and feet and heart in the world, and looking after one another,” Hollar said.
Suzanne Ferguson, a member of St. Mark’s, has participated in the church’s Stop Hunger Now packaging event since it began four years ago.  She continues to participate because it allows the church to reach beyond the community and do something that has a global effect.
“It enables almost everybody in the church to be involved – ages 5 to 95. It’s an easy thing for everybody to do together, and you get instant results,” Ferguson said. “And it’s nice to meet people from the community too, to reach out and meet people that don’t typically come to your church and show them what you offer.”

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