Church pack­ages 50K meals to fight hunger

Grace Pres­by­te­rian ser­vice event sup­ports Rise Against Hunger, Aid for Friends

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - FRONT PAGE - By Corinna Vla­hoyian­nis

“Ev­ery time you hear this gong ring, I want to hear your largest shout. It means we’ve pack­aged an­other 5,000 meals.”

Ryan Eh­ntes, Rise Against Hunger em­ployee, stood on a stage over a crowd the 150 hair­net-clad vol­un­teers lin­ing the seven long assem­bly line ta­bles.

The one-and-a-half hour food pack­ag­ing frenzy had be­gun.

Ear­lier this month, more than 190 vol­un­teers gath­ered in the hall of Grace Pres­by­te­rian Church in Jenkintown with one mis­sion: to pack­age more than 50,000 meals for the non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion Rise Against Hunger (RAH) and 350 non-per­ish­able break­fasts for the non­profit Aid for Friends.

Es­tab­lished in 1998 by United Methodist min­is­ter Ray Buchanan, RAH (for­merly named Stop Hunger Now) has since pack­aged more than 429 mil­lion meals, serv­ing 74 coun­tries world­wide. In 2017 alone, it served more than 1.4 mil­lion meals. Once meals are pack­aged, they are de­liv­ered to RAH’s Im­pact Part­ners who then dis­trib­ute meals to schools, or­phan­ages, clin­ics and vo­ca­tional cen­ters serv­ing those in need.

Not only does RAH pro­vide nu­tri­tious meals, but it makes it its mis­sion to also teach com­mu­ni­ties ad­di­tional skills and pro­vide them ser­vices to sup­port their

jour­ney out of poverty. RAH es­tab­lishes pro­grams to teach com­mu­ni­ties how to be more agri­cul­tur­ally self­suf­fi­cient and in­crease their earn­ing po­ten­tial.

In ad­di­tion to en­er­giz­ing the crowd with sta­tis­tics about world hunger and RAH’s phi­lan­thropy, Eh­ntes in­structed the bevy of vol­un­teers with how to prop­erly pack­age the meal — a mix­ture of en­riched rice, soy pro­tein, dried veg­eta­bles and 23 es­sen­tial vi­ta­mins and nu­tri­ents — into bags that feed up to six peo­ple.

“We can’t do it with­out vol­un­teers,” Eh­ntes said to the crowd.

Eh­ntes re­minded the en­thu­si­as­tic vol­un­teers of their goal: 50,000 meals in the next 1½ hours.

“The project is twofold: pro­duc­ing food for our coun­try lo­cally, as well as glob­ally. Our mis­sion al­lows peo­ple to serve in the com­mu­nity,” said Stephanie Tem­plin-Ash­ford, as­so­ciate pas­tor at Grace Pres­by­te­rian.

“Grace has been ac­tive with lo­cal mis­sion cam­paigns of many types and global ini­tia­tives, in­clud­ing those in Africa and In­dia,” said parish­ioner and one of the or­ga­niz­ers of the RAH event David Alexan­der, “[but] this is Grace Pres­by­te­rian’s ini­tial foray into this type of mis­sion work.”

In 1881, Grace Pres­by­te­rian Church was founded in Jenkintown by John Wana­maker, owner of Wana­maker Depart­ment stores.

Since, the par­ish has grown into what Alexan­der de­scribed as a com­mu­nity of “rich par­tic­i­pa­tion and di­ver­sity.”

“We view our­selves as in­te­gral part of Jenkintown, Abing­ton and Chel­tenham ar­eas, draw­ing as far as Philadel­phia and Lans­dale,” said Alexan­der.

Alexan­der and his fel­low Vol­un­teers cel­e­brate reach­ing 50,000 meals.

or­ga­niz­ers — Tem­plin-Ash­ford, Dar­lene Reeves, Bob MacFar­land, James Still and Head Pas­tor Sandy Hulo — have been work­ing since Au­gust, con­tract­ing with RAH and or­ga­niz­ing the event.

“The ge­n­e­sis of the idea was to see the church in a larger con­text,” Alexan­der said. “We are a com­mu­nity who live by the Chris­tian teach­ing to ‘love your neigh­bor.’ Most ev­ery­one here be­lieves that.”

Ac­cord­ing to Alexan­der, the ini­tia­tive sur­passed their ini­tial goal of so­lic­it­ing 150 vol­un­teers, with an ex­cess of 190 vol­un­teers from the Grace com­mu­nity and be­yond join­ing the ef­fort.

Alexan­der ex­plained this en­thu­si­as­tic re­sponse from vol­un­teers “en­abled Grace to add an­other com­po­nent to the project, which is the pack­ag­ing of 350 break­fasts for Aid for Friends, a lo­cal char­ity that feeds se­nior ci­ti­zens who are of­ten un­able to leave their res­i­dences for any num­ber of med­i­cal rea­sons.”

“I’ve done 350 events, and it never ceases to amaze me [see­ing] peo­ple want­ing to do ser­vice,” said Eh­ntes.

Event or­ga­niz­ers said Eh­ntes, an Abing­ton res­i­dent, was es­pe­cially ex­cited to lead this Rise Against Hunger event so close to home.

“We are all ex­cited to vol­un­teer to­gether,” said parish­ioner Becca Piz, nod­ding to her fam­ily be­side her, ready to vol­un­teer.

“[The RAH meal pack­ing event] is some­thing [where] the com­mu­nity is all to­gether; it’s a rare op­por­tu­nity. I wish we could do this more. It might be [the first of many]; there has been so much in­ter­est and ex­cite­ment,” Piz said.

Over the pop mu­sic that blared over­head, the gong sounded. Then the air was filled with hun­dreds of tri­umphant screams and tired, danc­ing hands. The vol­un­teers at Grace Pres­by­te­rian reached their goal. Meal num­ber 50,000 now sat in a clear plas­tic bag, sealed and pack­aged.


Vol­un­teers mea­sure meal in­gre­di­ents.


Vol­un­teers pack­aged 350 non-per­ish­able break­fasts to be do­nated to Aid for Friends.


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