Yosemite High School junior Olivia Mattos got a good grip on the mallet before swinging it and striking the large gong set up in Hatfield Hall at Oakhurst’s New Community United Methodist Church last Saturday.
The loud sound of the gong signified another 1,000 food packets had been assembled by the 90 volunteers at the Stop Hunger Now event at the church. The room erupted with a brief cheer and applause but everyone quickly turned their attention back to the work at hand - preparing more than 2,300 food packets (14,000 meals) for those in need around the world.
The mission of Stop Hunger Now is to end hunger in our lifetime by providing food and life-changing aid to the world’s most vulnerable.
“I find it incredible that the work we do here today will have a very tangible impact on hunger in our world,” Mattos said.
Mattos worked at a table of 10 like-minded people, including her twin sister Rachel, filling plastic bags with dehydrated vegetables, soy, rice and a packet of 23 essential vitamins and minerals. Each packet will eventually be made into soup - enough to feed six people - primarily children at school feeding programs and orphanages.
“What we all are doing here this morning makes me feel like I am actually helping to end world hunger,” said Rachel. “This might be the last generation to deal with world hunger.”
Janette Saavedra is the pastor of the the United Methodist Church in Clovis - a church that has hosted six food packaging events - the largest in 2013 with 300 volunteers putting together more than 20,000 food packets, enough for 121,000 meals.
“An event like this really brings the community together,” Saavedra said. “It’s uplifting and empowering because we know by doing this we have actually touched lives.”
After two hours of the fast and furious work, the volunteers had boxed up the 2,300 food packets and loaded them on a truck bound for a warehouse in the Bay Area. Driving the truck was Jordan Marvin, of Walnut Creek, the Northern California program manager for Stop Hunger Now.
The Oakhurst food packets will eventually be delivered to those in need living in developing nations such as southeast Asia, India, the Philippines or Afghanistan.
“I have an amazing staff that helps coordinate these food packaging events with our partners throughout Northern California,” Marvin said. “What these great volunteers did this morning was prove that it can be both fun and rewarding to help people around the world who are suffering from hunger and poverty.”
The event was the idea of Oakhurst New Community United Methodist Church Pastor Gayle Basten. Her congregation, with help from other Methodist churches in the Valley, raised $3,000 over the past two months to purchase the supplies for the packages.
“Stop Hunger Now was founded in 1998 by Ray Buchanan, an ordained United Methodist minister, with the vision of ending hunger in his lifetime,” Basten said. “Buchanan, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam, previously founded and spent 18 years as co-director of the Society of St. Andrew, a Virginia-based domestic food relief organization.”
Stop Hunger Now distributes meals through feeding programs operated by partner organizations in developing countries that promote education, encourage children to attend school, improve students’ health and nutrition, address gender inequalities, stimulate economic growth and fight child labor.
“The organization also provides cash grants to organizations in developing countries,” Basten explained. “In 2013, $252,800 in grants supporting educational projects, providing school supplies, and assisting victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines were distributed.”
Details: Pastor Gayle Basten, (559) 683-2652, stophungernow.com.
Facts about world hunger
☆ More than 25,000 people die each day from hunger and hunger related disease.
☆ Of the 925 million who go to bed hungry each night, 400 million are children.
☆ Under-nutrition is associated with more than half of all childhood deaths.
☆ Up to 6 million children die each year from infections that would not have killed them if they had been properly fed.
☆ One in three people in developing countries suffers from vitamin and mineral deficiencies. - Stop Hunger Now