May 072012
 

Walt James, his wife Judith James, and Sherri Leal of “Kids Against Hunger” show a few of the meal packages prepped by Rotary members and collaborators on Saturday. They’re wearing hair nets for food service safety. (News-Ledger photo)

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — MAY 2, 2012 –

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

The Collings West Sacramento Teen Center on Saturday turned into a bustling food-prepn center for several hours, as a coalition of groups and volunteers donned hair nets to assemble food packets for the hungry.

  The Centennial Rotary Club spearheaded the event, working with the “Kids Against Hunger” organization that feeds families worldwide.

The event marked Rotary’s annual international work day.

“The 28th of April was the workday throughout the world,” said local club president Walt James. “All clubs try to participate in some kind of project that day.”

Why the “Kids Against Hunger” program?

“I bumped into it when I was at the convention in New Orleans last year. They had all kinds of booths on projects going on over the world, and this one caught my interest,” said James.

Sherri Leal is a “satellite program director” for Kids Against Hunger, and she coordinated with Rotary for the event. Saturday’s crowd of volunteers displayed a remarkable work ethic as they measured and packaged the easy-to-digest dry rice combos.

ALAN WEGAT (above at right) is among those sealing each assembled bag of rice mix (News-Ledger photo)

“We had about 110 volunteers,” said James. “We had people from all over the community, including the CERTs (the fire department’s Community Emergency Response Team) and members of the (other local) Rotary Club. We had people from Our Lady of Grace School, people from Christian Brothers High School, and we had the Pocket Greenhaven Rotary Club. We had one girl come from Mira Loma High School. We had the downtown Westminster Presbyterian Church – they brought about 30 kids. From the Southport part of West Sacramento was the Lighthouse Covenant Church. Plus some teens that frequent the teen center.”

What goes into the meals?

“What you have is rice, dehydrated vegetables, soy protein and minerals,” said James. “It’s a meal that’s balanced out for a malnourished kid, but anybody can eat it. There’s no meat, pork or fish – it’s all vegan.”

Rice is donated or bought by local contributors, and Kids Against Hunger brings the other ingredients.

When the recipient adds water and cooks the mix, the result tastes something like Rice-A-Roni – as many of those who tried the samples offered at the front of the teen center found out.

Six servings go into every bag – and the work party in West Sacramento assembled about 5,000 bags, or 30,000 meals.

Those bags will join other bags filled by other volunteer groups, filling up a 20-foot shipping container for eventual transport by the U.S. Navy to a destination in need.

  “Sheri has been shipping a lot to Haiti,” said James. “She has shipped to Somalia and the Philippines. She does not ship until they fill a container. You have to get the free shipping to make this work. The Navy is instrumental in putting these cargo containers (which hold about 585,000 meals) onto their ships and getting them where they go.”

“This is something anybody can do,” add James.

For information about the Kids Against Hunger program, visit www.kidsagainst-hungerpleasanton.org.

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Copyright News-Ledger 2012

Steve Marschke

Steve Marschke