Volunteers Pack 150,120 Meals to Help Children in Guatemala

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (April 26, 2018) The scene inside Advent Lutheran Church's gymnasium last week could warm any heart: More than 550 volunteers donated precious time in their busy lives to feed starving children in Guatemala.

As a result, 411 children potentially could receive food every day for a year, thanks to Food For The Poor donors.

Adults and children representing South Florida businesses, churches and community groups packed 150,120 lifesaving meals during the charity's third Join The Pack food-packing event Friday and Saturday.

The event was in partnership with Feed My Starving Children, a Christian nonprofit organization that sends prepackaged meals to more than 70 countries.

Enough money was raised by generous donors to send an additional 2.6 million meals that will go to needy families in countries served by Food For The Poor in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The situation is especially dire in Guatemala, which suffers from one of the worst rates of chronic malnutrition in the world. At a young age, it can lead to stunting, a condition that affects both physical growth and brain development, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development. The most vulnerable are the Mayan communities who live in the highlands, where stunting affects almost 70 percent of children younger than 5.

For many who packed meals, Join The Pack is all about a lesson in giving back, even to those they don't know and will never meet.

"What we do here matters to so many lives," said Vicki Burrier, of DaVita Kidney Care. "You may not see it, you may not feel it, but when the children in Guatemala get these gifts of food and nutrition it will make an amazing difference."

DaVita Kidney Care, a large healthcare organization that provides dialysis to kidney patients throughout the country, was one of two presenting sponsors for Join The Pack. The company also brought two packing teams.

Bravo Supermarkets, an independent neighborhood grocer with 17 locations in South Florida, also was a presenting sponsor. The supermarket chain brought more than 25 employees to pack meals.

"This is a personal charity that has been in my heart for about 32 years," said Eliza Diaz, co-owner of Bravo Supermarkets. "Once I heard about Join The Pack, I knew this is where we could make a difference, to help, to feed those who are malnourished, who are hungry, that really don't have what we have."

Wearing hairnets and circled around tables that functioned as assembly lines, volunteers packaged and loaded individual meals with cups of white rice and soy pellets, scoops of freeze-dried vegetables and vitamins that provide critical nutrition for malnourished children. Cheers erupted after every box was filled during each two-hour packing session.

Once prepared with boiling water, each MannaPack provides six generous servings of nutritious food. The easy-to-make, easy-to-transport meals are an answer to countless prayers. For children in danger of starvation, these meals are like manna from heaven.

For the third year in a row, Advent Lutheran Church hosted Join The Pack. The relationship between Food For The Poor and the Advent Lutheran congregation goes back many years. The church was a founding member of a Lutheran mission effort in Haiti called the Lazarus Project, which Food For The Poor has helped support.

Jacob Mack, pastor at Advent Lutheran Church, said events like Join The Pack give people the chance to share the abundance God has given them with others in need.

"It's an awesome feeling knowing these meals are going to a great cause," Mack said to volunteers during the Friday packing session. "We are extremely blessed that you have chosen to be here. This is food for the belly and food for the soul."

Feed My Starving Children and Food For The Poor teamed up for the first time in 2009. That partnership added up to 54 million meals a year in 2017.

"Our goal is to eradicate world hunger," said Tara Bugg, an event manager from Feed My Starving Children. "Every day, 6,200 children die from starvation and starvation-related illnesses around the world. We want to see that number reach zero. Volunteers and groups like Food For The Poor are going to help bridge that gap."

Food For The Poor Executive Director Angel Aloma thanked volunteers and sponsors for the loving service provided to families in Guatemala through the charity and Feed My Starving Children.

"When you come here to pack, it is not just a matter of doing good. It is a matter of saving lives," Aloma said. "It is a matter of saving mothers the heartache of seeing their children stunted in growth, both mentally and physically, because they don't have enough food to eat."

In addition to DaVita and Bravo Supermarkets, other sponsors include Hormel Foods, Wells Fargo Bank, Jersey Mike's, Granite Telecommunications, American Express, Sonitrol of Fort Lauderdale, Florida Aquastore, Advent School, Wizard Creations and Goya Foods.

Other corporate and community groups fielding teams include US Foods, RNnetwork, LexisNexis, Gordon & Donor, All County Paving, The LESS Institute, Barry University School of Social Work, Knights of Columbus, Kforce, Nova Singers, Kiwanis Club of Lauderdale Lakes, Rosarian Academy, Amigos de Guatemala, Hammock Street Church, Clubhouse Christian Fellowship and Food For The Poor's Directors and Voices Of The Poor Choir.

Food For The Poor, one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor primarily in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance. For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.

Michael Turnbell

Public Relations
954-427-2222 x 6054