Parish pitches in to combat childhood hunger - Catholic Courier

Parish pitches in to combat childhood hunger

Compared to the suffering that exists in many other places, Casey Rolfe felt her two-hour work shift on Sept. 11 was a very tiny sacrifice.

"Out of the more than 6 billion people in the world, more than 1 billion live in severe poverty, living on less than one dollar a day. Many cannot feed their families or themselves. Many mothers abandon their babies because they believe there is no way they will be able to feed them," said Casey, 17.

Casey, a youth-group member at Ithaca’s Immaculate Conception Church, was among 23 parish youths and adults who volunteered Sept. 10-11 for a massive community effort to combat childhood hunger. The event, occupying more than 20 hours over a two-day period, was hosted by Trinity Lutheran Church, also in Ithaca.

Groups from Cornell University, Ithaca College, area churches and community organizations prepared 150,000 mobile meal packs containing six meals each, performing such tasks as labeling, filling, weighing, sealing and packing the packets. All food is being sent to Haiti through Feed My Starving Children, a Minnesota-based Christian organization that combats hunger in more than 60 countries — particularly Haiti, which was the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere even before its crippling earthquake in January 2010.

Rich Rasmussen, Immaculate Conception’s coordinator of youth and family ministry, noted that his parish’s volunteers alone packaged more than 16,000 meals that will feed 44 children one meal per day for an entire year. Each mobile pack has four components: powder containing mild chicken flavoring, dehydrated vegetables, soy and rice, which are rich in vitamins and minerals. These packets are then boxed and shipped to villages for distribution. Trinity Lutheran financed purchase of the food, nearly reaching its fundraising goal of $17,000.

Casey said she worked alongside several members of the Cornell women’s lacrosse team Sept. 11 as well as another family from Immaculate Conception. She called the volunteerism "very enjoyable and rewarding," saying that everybody bonded by knowing their efforts would assist children who might otherwise starve.

"The teamwork and dedication everyone had to fulfilling this task was just astonishing. Everyone from Cornell men’s basketball players, to grandparents, to 8-year-olds were getting along and all working together towards a common goal," she remarked.

Rasmussen said that as he learned more about the people in Haiti who will benefit from this effort, one story in particular stuck with him. It involved an infant boy abandoned in the bottom of an outhouse by his mother, who felt she had no way to care for him. A man walking by heard the baby screaming and took him to an orphanage, where he received FMSC-provided meals and has grown healthily.

"We can get caught up in our own lives and our own difficult times. But to hear that a mom put her baby in the toilet because she couldn’t see a way to feed him, that’s desperation," Rasmussen commented. He added that it’s vital "to keep your eyes open to the need. When we pray, ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ we have to keep in mind how many people out there don’t have that."

Rasmussen added that FMSC’s mobile meal packs cost only 19 cents each.

"That ‘s change from lunch money. You could easily set that aside, whether it’s for Feed My Starving Children or another organization," he said.

Casey echoed the importance of taking action, saying that "because of such organizations millions of children are alive today that would have died without the food they provide. People need to stand up and help whether it is through volunteering like I did, donations to help pay for the food FMSC and other organizations package, or simply through prayer for those who need this food to survive."

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