Fight against hunger event brings missions to campus
January 13, 2012
By Darla Martin Tucker
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – (www.lasierra.edu) Sometime this spring a U.S. Navy ship will dock in West Africa laden with precious cargo—11,448 life-saving rice and soy meals bagged and boxed yesterday in three hours by La Sierra University students and their younger counterparts at La Sierra Academy.
On Jan. 12, as part of La Sierra University’s annual Missions Rush Week, numerous university students aided by 70 academy students formed assembly lines around long tables in the university’s Student Center. Wearing plastic hair caps, students filled plastic bags with dehydrated meal ingredients, sealed them and packed boxes with 36 meal bags in each.
Organized by the university’s missions office in partnership with humanitarian food-aid organization Kids Against Hunger, the event was the first of its kind at La Sierra. It aimed to bring the missions experience to campus and offer students an on-site outreach opportunity. The missions office typically recruits students for annual long and short-term missions activities overseas and in the United States. Currently nine La Sierra students are working as teachers, medical and dental assistants in Majuro, Peru, Zambia and Honduras. Read their blogs here: http://www.lasierra.edu/index.php?id=773.
Kids Against Hunger based in New Hope, Minn., holds food packaging drives with private institutions, churches and corporations to feed starving children around the United States and the world. “The line for food [in West African villages] is so long,” said Chris Craven, Kids Against Hunger packaging development specialist who supervised Thursday’s event. “There’s an ongoing need. Africa is the only continent that got poorer in the past 25 years,” he said. According to the World Hunger Education Service, there are currently 276 million people in need of food in the Near East, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Kids Against Hunger, using donated funds of 23 cents per meal, purchases the meal ingredients for the packaging drives. The rice and soy meals, engineered by scientists at General Mills and Archer Daniels Midland Co., contain 21 essential vitamins and minerals, six dehydrated vegetables and chicken flavoring. Each package contains 52 percent soy protein and incorporates a formula that “reverses the starvation process,” the nonprofit says. Each package contains enough ingredients for six servings and is prepared in less than 20 minutes by adding the meal substance to boiling water.
Pallets of the meals boxed at La Sierra will be stored in a warehouse in Temecula and eventually loaded onto a Navy ship in San Diego. The Navy, through its program Project Handclasp, will transport the food to West Africa where partner agencies will deliver meals to starving families and children.
“I haven’t done anything like this before,” said pre-nursing major Nancy Sanchez as she stood at a table in La Sierra’s Student Center and scooped cupfuls of a dry meal substance into a plastic bag through a funnel. She and three other students poured one scoop each of meal components into the bag in the prescribed order – first vitamins, then minerals, followed by soy and rice.
Sanchez transferred to La Sierra this year from Riverside Community College. Her involvement in the Kids Against Hunger outreach was her first experience with a missions-related activity, thus meeting one of the goals of the meal-bagging drive.
“A lot of kids are asking when they can come and do it again,” said sophomore Andrew Pedersen, a religious studies major and student missions director. “It gives people an opportunity who might not have the ability the leave the country” to serve overseas or to participate in short-term missions, he said. “Hopefully there will be more opportunities like this.”
“It’s fun,” said Bassam Fargo, a pre-dentistry student as helped fill meal bags. “I enjoy working with people and making new friends through the process of helping.”
The event attracted at least one former La Sierra student. Crystine Garsula, who attended the university between 2001 and 2003, noticed an announcement about the Kids Against Hunger event on the missions office Facebook page. “I figured I was free today. I think it’s a great cause,” said Garsula as she sealed the ends of plastic meal bags. “It doesn’t require any money, just my time.”
Kids Against Hunger can be reached at 951-551-8732 or at www.kidsagainsthunger.org.
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University