700 volunteers + 1 long day = 100,008 packaged meals

October 16, 2011

One of the "assembly lines" in the Republic County 4-H Building in Belleville is in full swing Sunday afternoon, with volunteers packaging meals for Numana Inc.

With World Food Day marking its 30th anniversary in 2011, a group of people in Belleville, Kan., wanted to find a way to make an impact.

Jay Lewis, standing at left, chats with Sister Mary Savoie Sunday afternoon during the Heartland Against Hunger event as two volunteers take a well-earned break.

And the resulting event on Sunday, Oct. 16, was impressive: Some 700 volunteers from throughout north-central Kansas and south-central Nebraska arrived in waves at the Republic County 4-H building to assemble more than 100,000 meals in just six hours.

Tragically, the food will be sent to Dadaab Refugee Camp in eastern Kenya where the statistics are even more staggering: Twenty years of civil war and a second year of massive drought in neighboring Somalia have turned Dadaab into the world’s largest refugee camp. Population estimates range up to 450,000, with up to 1,300 new refugees pouring into Dadaab every day.

It’s those kinds of statistics — both of the people who turn out to first raise money and then to volunteer, against the specter of growing worldwide hunger — that led to the creation of Numana Inc., which provided the supplies for the Belleville event and will work with the Salvation Army World Services Office to get the food packages to Dadaab.

Each Numana package contains enough food for six one-cup meals.

According to Jay Lewis of Numana, the Belleville event pushed his organization’s tally over 23 million meals donated to Dadaab and other areas in the Horn of Africa.

“Not bad for just two years,” Lewis says.

Rick McNary of El Dorado, Kan., began Numana as a meal packaging organization aimed at international hunger relief. Numana works with volunteer groups to organize packaging events and then provides all the food, equipment and supplies needed to package it.

To learn more about Numana, CLICK HERE.

The idea for the Belleville event began with the Republic County Ministerial Association, of which Sister Mary Savoie is a member. Other churches and service groups were recruited to join the effort, and those interested came together to form a steering committee, and to meet with Lewis and begin the partnership with Numana, at the end of July.

Lewis recalled that at that meeting, the discussion began with a goal of 20,000 meals but enthusiastic organizers had pushed it up to 100,000 by the end of the evening.

Sisters Margaret Nacke, left, and Mary Savoie, who both live and serve in Belleville, were instrumental in organizing the packaging event on World Food Day Sunday.

Sisters Margaret Nacke, left, and Mary Savoie, who both live and serve in Belleville, were instrumental in organizing the packaging event on World Food Day Sunday.

The group — with representatives from Republic, Cloud and Jewell counties in Kansas and Thayer County, Nebraska — named themselves Heartland Against Hunger. And their first order of business was raising the $30,000 needed to pay for the food that would go into their 100,000 meals.

Sister Margaret Nacke, who was a member of the steering committee, received a $1,000 donation from her congregation, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. Most of the other donations were much smaller, but they came from groups and individuals throughout Heartland’s region, Sister Margaret said.

By the end of the day Sunday — just 80 days after that initial July meeting — the total raised was $32,567. The number of meals packaged reached 100,008.

The Belleville event drew participants from as far away as Salina, including about 10 Sisters of St. Joseph from Concordia, and it was just one of six Numana food packaging days this weekend, Lewis said. All were in relatively small towns, like Belleville, but he was excited about the turnout on World Food Day.

“There’s just energy here,” he said. “It’s fun to get to know some of these people and see how excited they are about being able to help.”

 

Volunteers line up outside the 4-H Building as they wait to register for the beginning of their "shift" Sunday. An estimated 700 volunteers took part over the course of the day.