'We're doing something that helps others'


Volunteers to pack food at 4 locations

By Woody Woodrick

Advocate Editor


Pastors in the East Lauderdale covenant group know exactly what hungry people around the world will get from Mississippi.


They’ve not only agreed to help package meals for Stop Hunger Now, they’ve actually tasted them.


“At one of the covenant meetings, we cooked a couple of the packages and tasted it,” said the Rev. Lynne Anderson. “This is something we can see and touch and taste. That makes it real. We’re doing something that helps others in the world.”


Anderson is helping coordinate a Share House packaging project in the Meridian District, one of four that will be held around the state March 29-31. Others are planned for Hattiesburg, Jackson and Wood Institute in Mathiston.


The goal is to package 100,000 servings of crisis response food and raise at least $25,000.


Mike Ward serves as coordinator for the conference. Ward, the husband of Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, serves on the board of directors for Stop Hunger Now.


The project grew out of a workshop held at the 2006 Annual Conference. Ray Buchanan, president of Stop Hunger Now, showed those who attended how the packaging works.


“Later in the summer some of my colleagues (at the University of Southern Mississippi) got to talking about it and got interested,” Ward said. “The North Carolina State freshmen had done an event as a service project, and we asked why not at USM?”


Anderson, associate pastor at Pleasant Grove UMC in Kemper County, said the Lauderdale group was impressed with the workshop at Annual Conference. They pledged $2,000 for Stop Hunger Now. “Each church promised $100 and brought it to our Thanksgiving service,” said Anderson. “We sent that money in. The rest will be raised when people sign up to work for two hours.”


The Hattiesburg event is scheduled for March 29 at the Payne Center on the USM campus. Galloway Memorial UMC  will serve as the packaging site on March 30, while Meridian Wesley UMC and Wood Institute have their events set for March 31.


“We set a target at each location and feel confident we will meet our goals,” Ward said. “The money helps pay for the food and to ship it.”


Each of the sites will package dehydrated, fortified rice-soy meals containing more than 20 vitamins and minerals especially formulated for the undernourished. The meals will be vacuum-sealed in bags 3 millimeters thick, allowing them to be stored in warehouses for a minimum of three years.


“The food is really useful in dire food-crisis situations,” Ward said. “It’s durable. That doesn’t sound appetizing, but it’s important. It tastes good and travels well.

“The meal has to be boiled 20 minutes before it is edible. The water quality is problematic in some emergency situations. It is a really good food product for crises around the world.”


The Rev. Zeb Manning, who is coordinating the Hattiesburg project, said he’s had good response from volunteers.


“It’s a hands-on (event),” he said. “You’re not sending it off to some obscure place you don’t know anything about. It’s so simple, and the need is so bold and in front of everybody’s face. They can relate to the need through the simplicity of it. Being able to do something about it is really exciting for a lot people.”


Ward agreed. “I think the interest is the product of three things,” he said.


“People really want to help and understand that hunger is one of the world’s ugliest and worst blights,” he said. “Second, it’s a project they can literally put their hands on. Packaging events are fun. Third, it is a relatively simple project. It’s not complicated. We package and ship it, and it winds up in front of hungry people.”


Ward also pointed out that the project appeals to all people who want to help others. “Not all who package are church-goers or Christians,” he said. “A number of people who participate are believers, but it is ecumenical.”


The packages made in Mississippi will be sent to a warehouse in North Carolina, but won’t likely sit there long, Ward said. He said the demand for food around the world is such that supplies are needed quickly.