Images depicting famine in Africa, Indonesia and India pull at our heartstrings. In 1987, Minnesota businessman Richard Proudfit visited Honduras and witnessed for himself the effects of widespread hunger. Feeling called to help, he returned to the Twin Cities to develop a method of large-scale relief. The result became the Christian organization “Feed My Starving Children.”
Two years later, FMSC connected with food scientists from Cargill and General Mills to develop a nutritional product especially for the organization to feed starving children. The product included rice, soy, vegetables, a vegetarian-based chicken flavoring and a vitamin and mineral mix. The cost of one meal? Seventeen cents.
Effort has produced 73.6 million meals
More than 20 years later, his effort has produced more than 73.6 million meals, with four permanent packing sites, a nationwide “MobilePack” program, and 310,000 volunteers serving starving children in 60 countries.
Locally, the human concerns committee of the cluster parishes of St. Peter of Alcantara and St. Mary, Port Washington, and Immaculate Conception, Saukville, are hosting a “Mobilepack” to assemble 100,000 meals April 8-10.
Linda Gottlieb, a married mother of four who works for Wheaton Franciscan Hospital in Franklin as a radiology nurse, is coordinating the effort. She learned of the program four years ago from a newspaper article, and about a year ago she saw it in action.
“I had a friend who lived in Port Washington, who moved to Naperville, Ill., and I went to visit her, and she said we were going to go on a field trip,” she explained about her first experience with FMSC when her friend took her to the Aurora, Ill., site of FMSC. Gottlieb, her husband and her friend packed food for the organization for two hours. Gottleib said it was anything but repetitive and boring.
The 17-cent meal sustains a child
“It was an awesome experience, just for those two hours,” she said. “A good deal of people in the world have been truly, truly blessed, especially here in the United States. To know that at 17 cents a meal, this combination of nutrients and rice is going to sustain a child, and to know that I’m participating in that,” is an amazing feeling, she added.
“They pray over it when you’re done, when you’re done packing for your two-hour period, everybody puts their hands on the boxes and they pray over it, that it has a safe journey. I guess you feel like you’re really helping somebody who is definitely less fortunate than any of us around here. It’s a spiritually filled kind of feeling to have, and that’s what I was drawn to.”
Gottlieb returned home determined to involve fellow parishioners. While the human concerns committee of the three cluster parishes understood that a lot of good could come from the project, they were already committed to building two “Habitat for Humanity” houses with other Catholic and Lutheran churches in the area that year. They declined, she said, but that gave her a head start in planning for the following year.
Fundraising efforts begin
Because her parish often does international work for its Lenten appeal, members decided to start the fundraising for FMSC to collect $17,000 needed for this year.
The cluster parishes of
St. Peter of Alcantara and
St. Mary, Port Washington,
and Immaculate Conception, Saukville, need monetary
donations and volunteers to
help pack and ship the 100,000 meals April 8-10 at Portal Industries, 1015 Cedar Creek Road, Grafton.
If you are interested in this unique
opportunity, call Linda Gottlieb at (414) 688-6462
or e-mail her.
Donations may be sent to
Please make the check out to
“The more I thought about it, it was just a fabulous experience, and I didn’t want to limit it to just three parishes,” she explained about their cluster parish. “I wanted to open it up to all of Ozaukee County.”
Sharing the weight of raising money during hard economic times was also a factor in the decision process, she added.
“The minimum that you can do is 100,000 meals,” she explained about why they chose such a high number. The organization trucks the food to the Mobilepack site where it will be packaged. Delivering small amounts here and there just wouldn’t be helpful in keeping the cost of the food down, she added.
“When you think that 17 cents a meal and you know, how much we spend for our coffee in the morning, it kind of puts it in proper perspective that something so minimal is so vital to so many people,” she said about the 18 meals a $2 cup of coffee could buy.
Children can help other children
“It’s so important for children to be helping other children,” Gottlieb said, explaining that the minimum age for volunteering is 5. “These meals go to children who are in school, and so they get one meal a day; pretty much this is their meal,” she said.
In addition to packing the meals, volunteers also taste the food as well, which has been described as having a chicken “Rice-a-Roni” kind of taste.
“It’s very specific,” she said about the food mixture. “They have the rice, the soy, the minerals and the vegetables. It’s one cup of this to one tablespoon of that, and they have all the right sized cups for everything. People pour it in kind of a big funnel – they have a bag at the bottom – and then there is another person that weighs it.” Four hundred grams of food is all it takes to help nourish a starving child, Gottlieb explained.
Assembly line approach is ‘energizing’
Once 18 bags have been collected, another person puts them in a box, which is then taken to another person to be sealed and eventually put on the truck for shipment.
Beginning early this year, the committee spread the word that volunteers for the fundraiser would be needed. According to Gottlieb, between 30 and 40 churches of different denominations within Ozaukee County were contacted to volunteer and raise money. Gottlieb also sent notices to nearby service groups such as Catholic Knights Insurance and the Rotary Club, high schools, and “anybody who I thought would be interested.”
Volunteers, money still needed
Only a few weeks until the event, they have raised almost $11,000, but are still about $6,000 short of their goal. The same goes for volunteers, where more are needed to complete the three-day project. Those interested can volunteer in two-hour increments, with seven time slots available.
Fr. Patrick Wendt, team moderator of the in solidum team that comprises the three parishes, is supportive of FMSC. For him, volunteering time is just as important as donating the money for FMSC.
“I think it’s not just asking people for money, but asking people to participate in putting together the meals. I think that’s another strong connection with what we’re trying to make,” said the priest who plans on working a shift on April 9. “I saw it as just one way – we’re just new as a cluster of the three parishes – one way of getting people from all three parishes working together,” he said, adding that slowly but surely the time slots are filling for the weekend.
Gottlieb had one warning for those who volunteer for FMSC.
“There’s a year waiting list to get groups of people to go in,” she said. “Because once you hear about it and you do it, you want to do it again. It’s a pretty amazing thing.”