Global 'Stop Hunger' movement is coming to Utah
By Nkoyo Iyamba
June 10th, 2013
SALT LAKE CITY — A growing movement to eradicate hunger worldwide is making its way to Utah.
The North Carolina-based Stop Hunger Now is working with local businesses, churches, and community groups to launch its first meal packing event fall 2013.
"What we want more than anything else is to end hunger in our lifetime," said Ray Buchanan, Stop Hunger Now founder and international president. "This generation is the first generation in the history of this planet that actually can eradicate hunger forever."
Buchanan said he believes it's possible by using teams of volunteers in communities in the U.S. and abroad to package meals for starving school kids around the world. The meals contain fortified, dehydrated rice, soy protein, and vegetables packed in 13.58 ounce bags. Each bag contains six servings and costs $1.50.
Corporations, churches, schools and community groups already fund these efforts in 19 U.S. cities and South Africa and Malaysia. Now, they're hoping Utah volunteers will join the movement.
"We know this state is full of people who love volunteering," Buchanan said. "They have a history of caring and wanting to help."
An ordained United Methodist Minister, Buchanan started a domestic hunger program in the U.S. but saw a greater need to feed kids in schools globally.
"Internationally, 25,000 of our human families die every single day because they don't get enough to eat," Buchanan said. "Americans don't really die of hunger. We are blessed to have so many safety nets from the federal level to religious organizations that have soup kitchens."
Buchanan also said feeding starving school kids abroad won't be the panacea to end world hunger alone, rather creating a world where hunger is not tolerated. Stop Hunger Now advocates solving the problem through education, which they believe leads to ending the cycle of poverty.
One strategy Stop Hunger Now uses is to accomplish that goal is to develop a school feeding program.
"You first provide nutrition that children need to learn. You can't learn, think and concentrate on an empty belly," said Rod Brooks, president and CEO of Stop Hunger Now. "The school enrollment doubles triples, quadruples. And with that comes increased literacy rates, vocational training opportunities."
The group is delivering meals to 40 countries and has just passed the 100 million mark for packaging meals.
"We've been told that 90 to 95 percent of the kids that eat these meals — this is the only meal they'll eat all day," Buchanan said. "We've talked to headmasters and principals at schools and they say that once they start the feeding program, it only takes about two and a half weeks before you can see a difference in the skin of the students that start eating these meals."
Stop Hunger Now relies heavily on volunteers to function to reach its goals.
"The volunteers are so inspired by the ability to do something to end world hunger," said Brooks. "But most importantly, giving them a hands-on opportunity to directly do something about it."
Brooks and Buchanan said in two hours a group of 50 volunteers can package 10,000 meals.
"With the community's support and involvement, we can easily be packaging a million to a million half meals within a year's time," said Brooks.
Brooks said he has two photographs that help remind him of the power of filling bellies. One photograph has an image of his wife holding their healthy six-month-old daughter.
The other photo is of a Kenyan mother holding her starving child in her arms.
"I know the aspirations we have for our daughter to live a healthy fulfilled life," Brooks said. "And I know the mother in Kenya doesn't have any less love or hope or dreams for her daughter."
Nkoyo Iyamba, Multi-Media Anchor/Reporter
Nkoyo Iyamba considers herself a journalist with a flair for all things international. She lounges in the arts, fashion, and entertainment worlds.