Lee's Summit Journal

‘Helping others is what it’s all about’: Lee’s Summit church works to feed the hungry

Girl Scouts Amara Wray, 11, and Julia Panter, 10, spoon rice into bags during the Oct. 19 Rise Against Hunger event at First Presbyterian Church.
Girl Scouts Amara Wray, 11, and Julia Panter, 10, spoon rice into bags during the Oct. 19 Rise Against Hunger event at First Presbyterian Church. Special to The Star

A Lee’s Summit church is working to fight hunger — to the tune of 10,000 meals.

On Saturday, about 80 members of the First Presbyterian Church gathered to mix rice, dehydrated vegetables and other ingredients to make shelf-stable meals in conjunction with the nonprofit organization Rise Against Hunger.

It’s the second year the church has worked with the group to make nutritious meals that will be shipped to other countries to help people in need.

Although the First Presbyterian volunteers don’t know where the meals they packed will go just yet, Haiti has received more meals than any other country from Rise Against Hunger.

Its 77 recipient countries span the globe, from Vietnam to Zambia to Nicaragua. Last year, with help from volunteers, the Raleigh-based organization packed 76.9 million meals for distribution.

Lee’s Summit resident Tina Wray brought four Girl Scouts from the two troops she leads to the packing event.

“I’m a huge proponent of helping fight hunger. I work in the food industry, so I see food scarcity all the time,” Wray said.

The Rev. Michael McCall said this event is just one of the ways his congregation works to solve the problem of hunger. He liked that people of all ages could participate.

“This was great for getting people actually involved on-site. It’s a hands-on endeavor,” McCall said.

That feeling of the community working together helped spur on volunteer Bob Rauscher.

“Helping others is what it’s all about. The energy (here) is just incredible, and it makes you want to work harder and faster,” said Rauscher, a Lee’s Summit resident.

Every time the group finished packing 1,000 meals, a gong sounded, and the whole group cheered.

“I think this is a great project to promote fellowship and unity,” said volunteer Nancy Tapp of Independence. “A lot of times, we think, ‘What difference can I make?’ The problem is so gargantuan, so overwhelming.’”

The church raised about $3,500 to pay for the supplies of rice, soy protein, dehydrated vegetables and micro-nutrient packs that go into each meal package. The mix is a precise one.

“We have specifically created that to target some of the nutritional issues that a lot of times are problems in countries with vulnerable populations,” said Hannah Payne, public relations and communication special for Rise Against Hunger.

Those problems can include deficiencies in iron and vitamin A. They use soy protein rather than animal protein so that the meals can go to any region, so dietary restrictions against eating particular animals won’t get in the way.

In the last seven years, Rise Against Hunger (formerly known as Stop Hunger Now) has held more than 400 events like this one in the Kansas City area. Its goal is to solve the problem of world hunger by 2030.

“It is possible to do it. There is enough food in the world to feed everybody,” Payne said. “It’s just a matter of having it be available and accessible to the people who need it.”