For 22 cents, Villa Maria students feed those in need

by PATRICK MCPARTLAND
Tue, Mar 13th 2018 09:00 am
Managing Editor
Children in Syria hold up their MannaPacks from Feed My Starving Children. The meal pouches, packed by volunteers, procide the needed nutrients for growing children. (Courtesy of Feed My Starving Children)
Children in Syria hold up their MannaPacks from Feed My Starving Children. The meal pouches, packed by volunteers, procide the needed nutrients for growing children. (Courtesy of Feed My Starving Children)

Students and volunteers at Villa Maria College are going to feed starving children for .22 cents. That's the cost of one life saving meal from Feed My Starving Children.

Kim M. Kotz, academic coordinator of Clinical Education and Physical Therapist Assistant Program at Villa Maria College will be helping to coordinate the Feed My Starving Children MobilPack event from April 14 to 15 at Villa Maria College in Buffalo.

Kotz experienced her first MobilPack event at St. Bonaventure University, after the Haitian earthquake in 2010. Kotz brought FMSC to Villa Maria College. Kotz's wanted to "try to get students engaged in community service in our service learning committee, to re-enforce the mission of the college and core values with our students." This year will be Villa's seventh year hosting the pack event.

The FMSC host provides space, tables and volunteers, and raises the money to pay for the meals.

"108,000 meals over the two days. So our fundraising goal is $26,000," said Kotz.

Feed My Starving children sends three people and a semi-truck to the worksite. Two people will guide volunteers on the MobilPack weekend. The truck will be filled with everything needed to put the meals together. "Everything from the food product themselves, to the bags we put the food in, to the stickers that go on the bag, to heat sealers that seals the bag, boxes and pallets. Things like that," said Kotz. "What we'll be packing is called Manna Packed rice. It's a meal that consists of vitamins, dried vegetables, soy nuggets for the protein and then rice."

Volunteers are organized into an assembly line with each volunteer having a job on that line.

One places a plastic bag under a funnel then four people scoop the four ingredients into the funnel, filling the bag. That bag goes down the line for somebody to weigh it. The bag then continues down the line to be heat-sealed and packed in boxes, then placed on pallets. When the pallet is full it is put back on the truck for shipment to wherever the FMSC sees a need.

Packing is not some arduous task at all, Kotz said. "It's really fun. We have upbeat music going. Different tables start getting competitive with each other. It goes by very fast."

Last year the MobilPack at Villa Packed filled just over 108,000 meals. That feeds 296 kids for an entire year.

Volunteers can be any one who is willing to put in the time. Volunteers commit for two-hour packing sessions and there will be four sessions. One on Saturday night and three on Sunday - morning, early afternoon and later afternoon. "It could be individuals or families. I think it is a great project for things like youth groups and confirmation groups," said Kotz.

Over 500 volunteers ages 5 and up are needed for the weekend. Kotz said there are jobs for anyone. "We've had volunteers from 5 to literally 95 years old."
Fundraising also needs to be done toward the cost of the food.

Each volunteer packs about $50 worth of food. "We tell our volunteers that that ($50) should be their fundraising goal as an individual," said Kotz. It is not required to raise that amount to participate, but it is strongly encouraged.

People think $50 is a lot of money and fundraising is the biggest challenge the group needs to overcome.

"If you think about it, ask 10 friends or family members to sponsor you for five dollars. Then you're there." said Kotz.

Kotz rounds up the .22 to a quarter and every time she gets a quarter she puts it in a special jar. By the end of the year she has $200 to $300.

Corporate sponsors are always welcome. "Any business could say 'Hey, we'll sponsor 10 people to pack or we'll donate $500.' Every little bit helps." Even a $5 donation feeds 20 kids for a day.

What Kotz finds special about FMSC is that when people donate they really don't see where their donation goes. What is great about the organization is that you see and feel the food. "You put your hands on the food. You're giving a donation but also giving a part of yourself," said Kotz.

Minnesota businessman Richard Proudfit founded FMSC in 1987. Over 90 percent of the donations go directly to the food. FMSC has received the highest rating from Charity Navigator 11 years in a row.

FMSC doesn't provide meals to governments in other countries. They work with partner organizations like hospitals, orphanages, schools and sports programs. These organizations then have to report back to FMSC what they are doing to better their own community. The partnership allows the recipients to become more self-sufficient.

Planning the weekend and keeping the MobilPack Event is not easy and sometimes Kotz will ask herself, "Is it really worth it? Then we do it and, yeah, it's worth it." At the end of the weekend the Villa Maria team can say almost 300 kids will survive because of their actions.

You can find much more information about FMSC on their website: www.fmsc.org.

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