The 25,000 meals packed by volunteers at the Western PA Annual Conference in mid-June have been shipped to Zambia in a container totaling 285,120 meals from Stop Hunger Now's Philadelphia warehouse.
"These meals were loaded by hand by a team of youth to accommodate playground equipment also being sent for the children of Zambia. Your meals will support the work of Kids Alive International," said an e-mail to the Rev. Barb Moore, chair of the Conference Sessions Team, who arranged for the meal-packing.
"Kids Alive International (KAI) has worked in Zambia for 12 years, and now provides care to almost 800 children in children’s homes, schools and community programs. KAI has two children’s homes in Lusaka, each caring for 12 orphans. They focus on providing each child with quality holistic care – a safe place to sleep, nutritious meals, medical care and an excellent education that will help them reach their full potential and obtain a job in the future. KAI also operates a care center in the Misisi Compound, one of the most neglected slums in Lusaka. Lack of hygiene, coupled with the overwhelming HIV/AIDS problem, has resulted in scores of orphans. KAI’s “Families Together” program in Misisi provides a daily meal, medical care, clothing and the supplies needed for school attendance, daily tutoring, and emotional encouragement to up to 25 children.
"In the western part of Zambia, KAI runs two school programs that cater mainly to impoverished children between the ages of six and fifteen years by providing a primary education from Grade One to Grade Seven. There are now more than 600 orphans and vulnerable children registered in these programs. Within this effort is a vocational project that is designed to provide young people with practical skills that will enable them to get a job and earn a living in the future. This is vital in an area of Zambia where there is such high unemployment."
Every day, an estimated 25,000 people die from hunger and related illnesses. To address the situation in a hands-on way, the Conference partnered with Stop Hunger Now, an international relief organization that coordinates the distribution of food and other lifesaving aid to countries in need around the world.
Many of the 1800 members and youth volunteered time packing meals beginning Thursday, June 13. As of 2 p.m. on Friday, June 14, the goal of 25,000 meals from was reached! An offering was also received to support the effort and planning is underway to repeat the effort with a higher goal in 2014, Moore said.
The meals consist of a combination of rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and flavoring mix that contains 21 vitamins and minerals. The food is reconstituted with water and can be supplemented with flavorings used in the country receiving them.
The meals are used in developing countries in schools, orphanages and in crisis situations. Each meal costs 25 cents. It sometimes may be the only meal a child or adult receives in a day.
2012 statistics show that there are 66 million primary school-age children who attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone. In addition, there are 67 million school-age children who do not attend school. Poor households must often choose between sending their children to school or to work the fields, according to the World Food Program.
Research reported by the World Bank shows that providing in-school meals, mid-morning snacks, and take-home rations through school feeding programs can alleviate short-term hunger, increase children’s abilities to concentrate, learn, perform specific tasks, and has been linked to an increase in the enrolment of girls.
"We do most of our distribution through schools because we can get children into school for the food and education will help them get food for the future," Andrew Sullivan of Stop Hunger Now told members of the annual conference.
The meals are put together in a sort of assembly line, weighed, sealed in bags, then packed in cartons for shipping.
Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton encouraged Conference members to volunteer 15 to 20 minutes during the event, even giving permission for them to miss a portion of the business. "It's worthwhile and important and it's fun," he said. "And one of the ways we make disciples is to provide for bodily needs."
Among the first to volunteer Thursday were a group of clergy spouses and youth who were serving as pages for the conference.