"We do it because hungry people matter." That's just one of many reasons Glenn Zorb, senior pastor at Mountain View Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee Foothills, says his congregation is hosting a "Mobile Pack Event" for Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) Nov. 17-20.
"Let's face it," Zorb said, "even in the midst of tough times; Americans are still wealthy compared to the rest of the world. For us, helping to feed a hungry child for an entire year through FMSC means we'd have to give up a weekly fast-food trip. Our belief as Lutherans is that we do this - we love others- because God loved us first. And working for justice means we encourage people to live more simply, so others can simply live." Zorb maintains that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) has made a longstanding commitment to reach the lost, the lonely and the hungry.
Feed My Starving Children, a non-profit organization based in Coon Rapids, Minn., mobilizes communities to fulfill their mission to "feed God's children, hungry in body and spirit." According to FMSC, 850 million people worldwide lack adequate nutrition. During each event, volunteers work in teams to pack meals during two-hour shifts. FMSC welcomes children as young as 5 years old to fill "MannaPacks," each containing soy, chicken flavor, rice and dehydrated vegetables. The culturally acceptable, easy to prepare food is scientifically designed to reverse the damages of malnutrition, and costs 19 cents to produce.
"The best part," Zorb said, "is that we have fun. While we're packing, we listen to music and make a friendly competition for the most boxes packed. And where else can you find a 5-year-old and a 95-year-old being productive together (FMSC accommodates elderly volunteers who have trouble standing by assigning seated jobs attaching labels)? So much of what we do in our culture is segregated by age. This multi-generational opportunity gives us the chance to interact together, and to learn from one another."
In 2008, Zorb discovered just how much the idea of making a difference resonated with people in the community. "You have to remember that Mountain View hosted our first Mobile Pack event just after we suffered the greatest drop in the stock market in decades. We had gone out on a limb and made a commitment to raise $65,000 to pay for the meals we agreed to pack. Even in the midst of that shock, people were willing to give. In the end, we raised $5,000 more than we needed, and we were able to forward it to another host church. Clearly, people had confidence not in what the future holds, but in who holds the future," Zorb said.
Fundraising is a key component of FMSC's model, and 94 percent of funds generated by donations are placed directly into food programs. Each host site commits to raising the necessary funds to pay for the supplies bought in bulk to fill MannaPacks. This month, Mountain View Lutheran Church has agreed to pack 500,000 meals, and must raise $85,000. While donations aren't required, volunteers are encouraged to each raise $40 to pay for the food they'll pack during each two-hour commitment. The balance of funds are derived from special events, such as last month's Ahwatukee Hunger Hunt, and from gifts made by local businesses. MidFirst Bank has sent its fundraising van twice to match loose change collections up to $1,000, raising a total of $4,000.
According to Zorb, the opportunity to contribute financially creates opportunities for kids to learn the value of stewarding their money wisely. In 2008, then 13-year-old Trey Martin was diligently saving money he earned from his door-to-door business, removing scorpions from neighbors' yards. He was planning to buy a new X-box game when his Confirmation group at Mountain View invited the kids to serve at FMSC. When he learned that what his savings could feed a hungry child for an entire year, he decided to donate the money to FMSC.
"A new game will just get old after awhile and I'll want another one. But if I can feed a child for an entire year, that will always make me happy," Martin said.
Zorb is confident the community will respond with a robust turnout in both volunteerism and contributions. Registration is open to the community (children must be accompanied by an adult) at fmsc.org.
"Let's be realistic; we know we're not solving world hunger here," he said. "But in the spirit of ‘teaching a man to fish,' we have to recognize that we have to feed people while they learn to provide for themselves. I can't ask a person to learn to fish when he's starved. Hungry people need relief; so we have to do both."
Christian Mission partners on the ground across 70 countries distribute the food in orphanages, schools and relief centers.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Diane Meehl is a freelance writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.