One hundred thousand meals, 500 volunteers and $22,000 is what it takes for St. John XXIII Parish’s next event to be a success.

The parish’s human concerns committee is spearheading its bi-annual Feed My Starving Children event April 13 and 14 at Portal Industries, 1015 Cedar Creek, Grafton.

Feed My Starving Children is a Minnesota-based Christian non-profit organization whose mission is to send nutritionally complete meals to malnourished children in more than 70 countries worldwide.

The organization does this through events like the one hosted by St. John XXIII. The parish’s volunteers will organize meal packets. Each meal packet includes rice, soy protein, 20 vitamins and minerals, dehydrated vegetables and a vegetarian chicken flavor. The items in the meal packets will then be cooked in boiling water by the mission partners, orphanages, clinics, schools and humanitarian relief centers in struggling countries.

The parish’s goal is to pack more than 100,000 packets, said Linda Gottlieb, the chairperson of the event. She expects 550 volunteers to help over the two-day event.

Each meal costs 22 cents, so the parish needs to raise $22,000 to cover the costs, said Kevin Bichler, a member of St. John XXIII’s human concerns committee. Although that sounds like a considerable amount of money, to put it in perspective, just $22 makes 100 meals and feeds a family of five for two weeks. For the cost of a Starbucks cup of coffee, 12 meals can be sent to children in need.

About six weeks after the event, the parish will find out where the meals they pack will go, Gottlieb said. In the past, meals have gone to Haiti, Cambodia and Swaziland.

Gottlieb discovered this effort 15 years ago after she noticed a church in Brookfield doing a meal packing project. After she looked into Feed My Starving Children, she found out the organization had a permanent site in Illinois and volunteers are booked solid for months.

She decided to bring the project to her parish, and St. John XXIII has a packing weekend every other year. During their “off years,” the United Methodist Church in Whitefish Bay uses the same building and hosts the same event. Between the two churches, 1 million meals have been packed in the last eight years.

Volunteers sign up for two-hour packing sessions. This year, packing is from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. April 13 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 14. Volunteers will also be needed for setup and takedown.

Anyone older than 5 can volunteer, and many families and even co-workers volunteer together, said Bichler.

“That’s the cool thing about it,” he said. “It’s families volunteering, it’s organizations volunteering, it’s kids from our parish school. It becomes almost like a team-building event, whether that’s for a family, an organization, or the school kids.”

Gottlieb said St. John XXIII Parish has a commitment to reaching out to those in need internationally, and the Feed My Starving Children project is one way the parish does so.

“People here in this country, where we all live, we are blessed in some way,” she said. “There is so much need in other areas of the world.”

Bichler echoed that statement, saying, “So often in our lives, we forget that there are starving children out there. While there is need within the United States, the need is even greater outside of the United States.”

Gottlieb said volunteer spots have been reserved for Catholic Herald readers. To sign up to volunteer, visit Scroll down and click “View MobilePack Events,” choose Wisconsin from the drop down menu, and then find the event in Grafton. If you don’t have access to a computer and would like to volunteer, call Gottlieb at 414-688-6462.

While volunteer spots are filling up fast and the desire to volunteer is wonderful, Bichler said, the parish also needs monetary donations in order to complete the project. Donations to cover the cost can be sent to Feed My Starving Children, 1800

N. Wisconsin St., Port Washington, WI 53074. Write “1804-034AU” in the memo line of the check.

“It’s pretty amazing how the whole thing comes together,” Gottlieb said. “People look forward to it. For a couple of hours, you feel like you’re helping.”