Volunteers Prepare Emergency Food Aid for Global Consumption

Written by Mariana Barrera. Posted in Economy, Human Interest, News

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Published on July 05, 2012 with No Comments

Amryn Vancleave, 2, was the youngest volunteer to attend a Kids Against Hunger event held on June 27, 2012 at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, Calif. The organization came together with the public to pack 100,000 bags of food in 10 hours to store at the Fairgrounds for emergencies. They went beyond their goal and will be adding the extra bags to the boxes being shipped to Haiti by the end of next week. Photos by Jessica Worthington.

By Mariana Barrera

July 5, 2012

Hundreds of volunteers, young and old, donned hair nets and gloves June 27 in an effort to reach an ambitious goal of preparing 100,000 emergency food aid packages in ten hours for national and global distribution and consumption.

The food preparation event held at the Alameda County Fairgrounds was organized by the Pleasanton affiliate of Kids Against Hunger, a non-profit organization headquartered in Minnesota dedicated to eliminating global hunger.

As many as 1500 volunteers throughout the shift were able to prepare as many as 12,000 emergency bags each hour. Each bag, which can feed up to six people, contains a nutritious non-perishable soy-rice and vegetables casserole fortified with vitamins and minerals. A one-cup serving contains as much protein as a three-ounce steak and provides nutritional sustenance for one person each day.

The meals are prepared in boiling water for 20 minutes, a vital method of cooking in areas where water is untreated or contaminated.

The organization distributes its emergency food aid – intended mostly for children – to as many as 60 countries worldwide including regular shipments to Haiti, the Philippines and Somalia.  It also prepares, stores and distributes emergency food aid for US consumption.

Once sealed, the packaged food has a shelf life of three to five years and is rotated every two years to maintain freshness.

Vicki Oliver, a volunteer for Kids Against Hunger, marks boxes ready for shipment to Haiti..

“We’ll actually hit a million meals today ever since we started (two years ago),” said Kids for America program director Sherri Leal. “We’re so excited about that because a million kids get fed.”

Bags of food are stacked and ready to be boxed.

Chronic malnutrition affects 24 percent of children under five and rises to as high 40 percent in the poorest nations, according to the World Food Programme.  In earthquake-ravaged Haiti, more than half of the country’s 9 million inhabitants survive on less that one dollar a day.

“I have a shipment leaving for Haiti next week,” Leal said. “They’re going to be running out of food in September at the school, so we need to get it out fast because it takes a couple months to get it there.”

The number of volunteers varied throughout the day and included individuals as well as groups from churches, banks, the Rotary Club of Pleasanton, Kaiser Permanente, Pleasanton fire and police departments and other organizations.

Deputy Sheriff S.G. Wilson joins with volunteers from Kids Against Hunger to help pack 100,000 bags of food in 10 hours last Wednesday at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton. “That’s what I’m talking about…let’s keep it going,” Wilson said.

“We all can’t go to Africa, but we can help send stuff there,” said volunteer Judy Hescox.

Each meal costs 23 cents to produce.  Donations from Alameda County ($15,000), the Pleasanton Rotary Club ($2,000) as well as individuals helped fund the 130,800 bags (285,000 meals) prepared during the ten-hour shift (47,500 bags will be shipped to Haiti next week).

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Kennedy Mahdavi, 16, holds a bag that will be filled with dried vegetables, soy, rice, and a special mixture of vitamins and minerals. “It’s pretty cool that we can help out,” said Mahdavi.

Zachary Wong, 5, helps put sealed bags of food into bags and containers.

Kyle Brabender, 27, pours a 50 pound bag of soy into a container.

Rows of tables are lined up side by side as volunteers fill bags with nutritious food.

Rows of tables are lined up side by side as volunteers fill bags with nutritious food.

Each 32 lb. box of food holds 36 bags of food. That is the equivalent of 216 meals at a program cost of only $50. Each 40 ft. container load of food includes 285,120 meals or 40 pallets of food at a program cost of approx. $65,000.

Mariana Barrera

I was born in Mexico on July 2, 1992, and have lived in Salinas, CA all my life. As far back as I can remember, my parents have always been busy people, so my brother and I didn't get to see them as much as we would've liked to. My dad works in agriculture, and has always worked long hours and left for months at a time due to his job. My mom was always around a lot more, but when I turned thirteen she opened a mexican restaurant, and was around less. Growing up, I spent my weekends at that restaurant and up until my junior year of high school I thought I wanted to be a chef. I was accidentally placed in a Journalism class,and that's where I found my true passion. My very strict, but motivating journalism teacher taught me what he knew about the craft, and lead me towards the Mosaic Journalism Workshop during the summer of 2009 There I had my first real-world journalism experience, reporting for a two-week summer program where I got to work with real journalists. The following year I became editor-in-chief of my high school's news paper, and enjoyed it so much that I decided to drop my life-long dream of becoming a chef to pursue journalism. Today I am studying Journalism at San Francisco State University with the hopes of one day becoming a well-rounded journalist.

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