On Sunday, Nov. 17, the community is invited to package food for the hungry at the Eagles Orchid Inn in Sleepy Eye.

On Sunday, Nov. 17, the community is invited to package food for the hungry at the Eagles Orchid Inn in Sleepy Eye.

With two shifts to help, families, parents, grandparents and children can package food either in the first shift from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

“This is a milestone,” said coordinator Rick Mages. “When we started this 10 years ago we didn’t know where we would go with it and we are excited that other communities have started to do this as well.” 

Mages works in Stewart where the Food for Kidz organization is headquartered. At the time, Mages daughter was in National Honor Society and looking for a volunteer project. He went into the headquarter office of Food for Kidz and asked if this was something local kids could work on for a service project. Several years later the area schools Student Councils got involved and today it has spread to a community wide family event with area schools, churches and other communities participating in the event.

The first year Sleepy Eye participated in the event with NHS students the organization was just beginning. Ten years later the organization packages over 10 million meals per year with Sleepy Eye doing their share.

Amazingly, in the past 10 years the community of Sleepy Eye has packaged 639,350 meals and raised nearly $75,000.

The goal for 2013, is to raise over $10,000 and to package 70,000 meals. All of the donation proceeds go toward funding the packaging of the food ingredients that are sealed in a heat-sealed packet.

Mages said the meals contain four ingredients; rice, chicken broth, dried vegetables and soy proteins.

“After a lot of research, what the organization found is what is common for us in the U.S. isn’t necessarily common in other countries,” Mages said. “They found a way to make the food nutritious and healthy and free from bacteria. By adding raw rice to the meal it is required to be cooked in boiling water.” 

Co-coordinator Deb Fischer added that she thinks it was ingenious of the organization to require people eating the meal to boil the water, which would kill any bacteria in the water as well.

The package contains a nutritious meal that is fed to hungry children around the world. The mission for Food for Kidz is about providing meals to not only hungry people around the world, but also in our own backyard. These meals have fed people in the Brown County area, as well as the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Uganda, Romania, Malawi, Liberia, Kenya, Haiti, Indonesia, Tanzania, Kosovo and hurricane victims in Louisiana and Mississippi and other areas in the nation.

“The concern for some is that we have hunger in our own area that we need to take care of,” Fischer said. “The packaged food also goes to area foodshelfs as well to keep it local.” 

One thing Mages and Fischer feel it is important to note is that all the money fundraised goes 100 percent into the ingredients of the food. Funds for shipping the food to other countries comes from other organizations who have made contact with countries that are interested in receiving the food.

“This organization is on the ground in a lot of places impacting a lot of lives,” Mages said.

This past summer he traveled to the Dominican Republic and saw the places where the food is distributed.

“The people coming in to get this food are in desperate need,” Mages said. “It really is for survival and nutrition purposes.” 

More than that, Mages added, the organization has touched a lot of young people’s lives who live in this community. Each year the event is planned close to Thanksgiving to allow people to share family time together making a difference and allowing them to reflect on their blessings before Thanksgiving.

In 2012 the communities of Morgan, Redwood Falls, Fairfax, Wabasso, Comfrey, Sleepy Eye, New Ulm, Springfield, Nicollet and Lafayette participated.

To donate money, write Food for Kidz on an envelope and drop in any church collection basket or at the schools around Sleepy Eye.

For more information contact Rick Mages at 320-583-7442 or Deb Fischer at 507-240-0546. For more information about the Food for Kidz organization go to www.foodforkidz.org.