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Thousands of volunteers pack tons of food

By Lee Reinsch

HOWARD – “Good Vibrations” fills the air of giant room purported to serve as a sanctuary on Sundays.

It teems with 20 horseshoe-shaped stations, each containing 22 people, each person tasked with a duty. Hundreds of people of all ages scoop, spoon, weigh, seal and box.

Some people dance while scooping; others scoop while dancing. Not one person is yawning and nobody seems to mind wearing hairnets.

Every few minutes a random horseshoe lets out a loud, long whoop.

Monday, Oct. 7, was the first day of the Feed My Starving Children mobile pack and things hit the ground galloping.

Lots of children helped pack meals for Feed My Starving Children this week at Green Bay Community Church. Lee Reinsch Photo

Eleven churches banded together to host a massive food-packing event with the goal of sending 750,000 MannaPack rice meals to hungry children around the world.

Each of those whoops means a station has filled yet another box full.

“Every day, 6,200 children die of hunger-related causes,” said Tim Groff, pack leader for the last three years and chair of the local Feed My Starving Children partner board of directors. “Each year, we’ve slowly increased our goal. We’d like to be a million-meal event.”

By the end of the week, more than 3,500 volunteers had a hand in the project.

It’s the seventh year the area has had a mobile pack event held at Green Bay Community Church, because of its large capacity, sturdy facility and huge parking lot, which is packed more like Walmart on Christmas Eve than church on a weeknight.

Making it happen

Before a FMSC mobile packing event can be held, churches have to commit to raising the funds to purchase the ingredients, finding volunteers to package them and providing space for the event to take place.

The parking lot of an event site needs to be able to handle four semi trucks bearing literal tons of food.

The rice comes in waist-high-to-a-grown-man bags weighing 2,000 pounds apiece.

Pallet jacks trundle it all inside, which is why a strong concrete foundation and cement-block construction come in handy.

A building hosting such an event has to be able to withstand a lot.

“We put a lot of wear and tear on a place,” Groff said.

The churches had to raise $180,000 for the event, which is why it happens here just once a year, Groff said.

It takes the whole year of monthly meetings, planning, fundraisers and progress checks to pull it off.

Around 300 towns and cities across the country host mobile pack events.

A life savor

The MannaPack rice meal secret lies in the vitamin formula.

Created by food scientists and nutritionists, the broth-vitamin powder reportedly contains a sizeable share of a day’s requirements of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, calcium, vitamins and sodium in a single portion.

“They’ve tried soups, crackers, other types of foods, but it has to pack well, travel well, remain shelf-stable, and this is the only thing that’s worked,” Groff said.

Granted, it’s bland, he said, but it’s for kids who are starving.

Often the MannaPack is the only thing they get to eat.

Green Bay’s food has gone exclusively to Haiti for the last several years because of the humanitarian crisis caused by 2018’s earthquake, drought and floods, which put 2.6 million people, half of whom are children, at risk of food insecurity, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Feed My Starving Children was founded in 1987 by the late Richard Proudfit, a businessman from Minnesota.

It’s since provided 2.4 billion meals to kids in 70 countries.

It has four permanent packaging sites – Minnesota, Illinois, Arizona and Texas – that pack MannaPacks six days a week.

Nora Beswick of Schaumberg, illinois, works on staff at the Illinois FMSC site.

She came to Green Bay as part of the FMSC on-the-road team.

“We have scouts, soccer teams, cheerleaders, schools and church groups come to work for us,” Beswick said.

“Companies have their team-building days there.”

One volunteering couple even held their wedding at the Minnesota site.

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