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.
“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.”
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.
“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).