Sending world hunger packing, one meal at a time
By Janie Magruder
GCU News Bureau
Anytime something cool is taking place on the campus of Grand Canyon University, the music is loud and upbeat, competition is encouraged and everyone seems to be having fun. This Saturday will be no exception as hundreds of GCU faculty, staff and students team up to pack 100,000 meals for a nonprofit organization that has served 1 billion meals to hungry children around the world.
The volunteer event for Feed My Starving Children (FMSC), from noon to 7 p.m. on campus, is part of GCU’s season of giving that is benefiting charities in various ways, each tied to men’s home basketball games. Saturday’s game, a 7 p.m. start in the Arena against St. Edward’s, is Feed My Starving Children Night.
(It’s not too late to sign up: More helpers ages 5 and older are needed to pack meals or clean up after the MobilePack, and they each will receive a free ticket to the basketball game. Click here to volunteer.)
Billy Thrall, GCU’s director of church relations, said the University chose FMSC because of the appeal and specificity of its missions.
“It’s very clear what they do: They pack meals for children in distress around the world,” Thrall said. “And they partner with local churches and organization who decide where the food goes. They also have a good track record and are totally transparent about what they do.”
They also teach about world hunger. Volunteers learn about the problem and what is being done by watching a short video before starting work. They then assemble “manna packs,” nutritious meals of rice, dehydrated soy and vegetables, and a mix of 20 vitamins and minerals. The ingredients, all 2,000 pounds of rice and 800 pounds of soy, will be scooped into bags, heat-sealed and packed into boxes that will be sent to Haiti.
The cost per serving is just 22 cents, said Janine Skinner, FMSC’s development adviser in Tempe.
Skinner and her husband, Dennis, of Ahwatukee, opened an Arizona office of the Minneapolis-based Christian organization seven years ago. They’ve been at their current site in Tempe for four years.
“We were drawn to Feed My Starving Children by the promise of saving the lives of starving children,” she said. “Anyone who looks at the before and after photos of skeletally malnourished children can’t help but want to help them.”
Skinner said nearly half of FMSC’s 900,000 volunteers in the United States this year were under the age of 18. The work is fun and meaningful, she said.
“We’re living likes kings and queens in the U.S.,” Skinner said. “We show them what it looks like in the rest of the world and give them a two-hour opportunity to make a difference. Students come away knowing that giving back is not only something we are called to do as Christians, but it makes you feel good, too.”
GCU senior Kelly Schmiesing volunteered at FMSC in November with about 50 other people whom she’d never met.
“It was good to do something that you know will have an impact throughout the world,” the finance and economics major said. “I’m looking forward to getting to know more people and serving with them again.”
And because a big part of Christmastime is sharing meals with family, friends and other community, preparing meals that will help so many who have so little is especially nice, Schmiesing said.
“It’s a very ‘up’ environment, the music’s going and they encourage each person on a team to make up cheers, so it goes by really quickly,” she said.
At the nonprofit watchdog service charitynavigator.org, FMSC received 99.05 of 100 possible points, for its accountability, transparency and financial status, for the most recent reporting period ending February 2013.
GCU and FMSC go together like rice and beans or, in this case, rice and soy.
“The standards that we place on ourselves are a little higher when we are called to do God’s work,” said Skinner, noting the organization doesn’t usually do offsite packing events so close to Christmas. “We’re hoping that staff and students who are in Arizona for the holidays will come down and bring a family member or friend. It’s a great way to show off your beautiful campus, have fun and get free tickets to the basketball game.”
Contact Janie Magruder at 602-639-8018 or firstname.lastname@example.org.