Feed the Hunger does just that for impoverished children in nations such as Haiti, Jamaica and halfway around the globe in Sri Lanka. In those places and others, $65 will feed a child for an entire school year. They eat nutritious meals bagged, sealed and boxed in events such as the third Grand Strand Pack-A-Thon next month.
Participants pay $65 a person and work for two hours. So a team of participants puts together the same packages of food that their donations have made possible. Scott Hahn, Pack-A-Thon director for Feed the Hunger in Burlington, N.C., says the goal for this year’s Pack-A-Thon is 200,000 packets of food and $50,000. Last October, teams from over 30 churches, businesses and civic clubs “bagged, weighed, heat-sealed and boxed” 152,712 packets at The Sun News. The first Grand Strand Pack-A-Thon in 2010 produced 106,920 packets. Participants have been from Little River to Pawleys Island to Conway.
The meals packaged here will be combined with the output from another similar event to fill a container for shipment to Bangladesh, Haiti, Jamaica, Kenya or Sri Lanka. “Just under 300,000 [boxed packets] are in a container,” Hahn says. As of Tuesday, “We have enough teams and donations to do 120,000 [meals] so we have 80,000 to go. We still need help, by all means.”
Over 30 teams are signed up but places are available on six shifts on Oct. 11, 12 and 13 – one on Thursday evening, two Friday evening and three on Saturday. The packaging is highly organized. The initial 15 to 20 minutes of every two-hour session provides specific instructions for every participant. The bulk food, packaging and equipment arrives on a truck. The teams pack over 4,000 meals during a two-hour packing session. The food is rice and soy protein nuggets, dehydrated vegetables and vitamin powder with 21 vitamins and minerals. It is mixed with boiled water.
Feed the Hunger is a program of New Directions International, which was established in 1968. Lee and Debbie Parrish of North Myrtle Beach are the area coordinators for the Pack-A-Thon. In fact, the Grand Strand Pack-A-Thon was started in 2010, Hahn says, because of Lee Parrish’s longtime interest in and support of Feed the Hunger.
Parrish is sensitive to local needs as well. Participants in Pack-A-Thon are asked to bring food items needed by area nonprofits including Low Country Food Bank, CAP (Churches Assisting People) in Conway, Helping Hand of Myrtle Beach, North Strand Helping Hand and South Strand Helping Hand. “Last year we collected 1,200 pounds of food to help meet local needs,” Parrish says. Most needed food includes peanut butter and jelly, pasta and prepared sauce, rice, cereal and powdered milk and canned meats including beef stew.
Participants in the earlier events have returned for repeat experiences – knowing they are providing meals for at-risk children in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean as well as helping area food pantries.