Local food packing project provides for Ukraine refugees

OXFORD — Feeding the hungry has become an even bigger challenge with the upheaval resulting from the war in Ukraine, but local people stepped to the challenge April 24. Despite great spring weather which took many outside, these volunteers stayed inside to fill bags with food.

The project was hosted by the Oxford Presbyterian Church which holds such a food packing each fall, but the situation with Ukraine prompted a spring effort as well.

On hand for the event was Michael Burwell, executive director of Kids Coalition Against Hunger. He said the goal for the afternoon was to package 20,000 meals. It was his fourth such event of the weekend with a total goal of 50,000 meals packed. He had started in Michigan, home of KCAH, and worked his way to Oxford for the Sunday afternoon food packing.

Volunteers worked together filling bags with 13.8 ounces including soy, vegetable, vitamin and rice grains and at the end of the table, the bags were heat sealed and collected into boxes.

While the current focus is on refugees from Ukraine, KCAH sends food to any place in the world where crises have left people without food and some is given to shelters in the local area of the food-packing efforts.

The food packed up here will be divided into three lots, one third going to local shelters, a third to Guatemala and a third sent to Poland to feed Ukrainian refugees.

“They like it and the reason they like it so much is that it’s shelf-stable. It does not need to be refrigerated. It is nutritious,” Burwell told the volunteers getting ready to start filling bags. “They will appreciate everything this group is doing.”

Burwell said the combined efforts of many such volunteer efforts will result in a shipment of 500,000 meals being sent May 15.

He explained each bag will provide six meals, with 36 bags in each box, which translates to 216 meals per box. There will be 66 boxes on a pallet, 18 pallets to a container and 256,000 containers.

He said the volunteers around the region will produce between 3.2 million and 3.5 million meals in a year. A testament to the amount of food the project will create was to be found in the middle of the room at the Presbyterian Seminary Building where stacks of sacks of the ingredients were piled up, waiting to be distributed to the tables of volunteers for bagging.

“We look to increase as the year goes on,” Burwell said. “It depends on the people and the communities willing to help.”

Oxford Presbyterian Church Pastor Lawrence Bartel said this is the fourth such KCAH packing event they have hosted.

“We usually have it in October as part of the Week of Food Action but after the invasion of Ukraine and the refugee crisis we see every day, we contacted Michael and asked about meals going to Ukraine. We made arrangement for him to come this week,” Pastor Bartel said. “We have a goal of eradicating poverty and hunger. We are just so excited to be able to do this, touching the lives of those from Ukraine.”

The KCAH web site describes their ingredients as vitamin-fortified crushed soy, a dehydrated blend of six vegetables, chicken-flavored vitamin powder and white long-stemmed rice.

The blend was developed by food scientists to provide a rich source of easily digestible protein, carbohydrates and vitamins needed by an undernourished child’s body and mind, according to their web site.

“The food is also acceptable to the broad diversity of ethnic tastes and religious differences around the world. The food offers all nine of the essential amino acids required for complete nutrition, something that can’t be said about other typical food relief sources such as rice or beans alone. It is also very simple to prepare, requiring only six cups of boiling water to make a complete meal.” The statement continues.

They describe their goal in the mission statement as: “Kids Coalition Against Hunger is a 501 c 3 humanitarian food relief organization, based in Wixon, Michigan, whose mission is to significantly reduce the number of hungry children in the USA and feed starving children throughout the world.”

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