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Many hands join to bag food for Haiti

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
January 24, 2010
— The Milton Middle School kids knew exactly why they were spending their Saturday afternoon at Kandu Industries on Saturday.

“An earthquake. People are dying,” Breck Kirkeeng said.


From small children to elderly adults, nearly 200 people worked in three shifts Saturday. They scooped substances from bins, combining them into packets that hungry people in Haiti will open and boil to make nutritious meals.


The packing operation, organized by Kids Against Hunger-Rock County Rotary, continues today at Kandu Industries in Janesville.


The local group has been feeding hungry people locally and around the world for about two years. So when disaster struck Haiti, they put out the word that they would shift resources to Haitian relief, and they needed donations—and volunteers.


“The support has been tremendous,” said John Wong, president of the local group.


Wong said the organization is completely voluntary; every dollar pays for food for hungry people.


A Minnesota businessman founded Kids Against Hunger in 1999. The local organization is one of 72 “satellites” around the United States and the only one in Wisconsin.


“It’s not been Janesville. It’s not been Beloit. It’s not been Edgerton. It’s not been Milton. It’s been everywhere,” Wong said. “We’re not out to prove one community is better that another. It’s a group effort.”


Kids Against Hunger sends one thing and one thing only to hungry people: a plastic packet of food whose contents can be cooked in boiling water to make a meal for six.


One of those meals feeds a 5-year-old for an entire day, Wong said.


All the labor is volunteer, and Kandu donates the space, so there’s no overhead.


All donations go to buying food and transportation, Wong said.


Wong enthusiastically spouted facts about hunger as he oversaw the packaging assembly line.


“Once every six seconds, a child in the world will die of starvation,” he told a group of volunteers Saturday afternoon. “But it just doesn’t make the national news.”


It’s about feeding the hungry but also educating people, he said.


Each packet contains a powder with 21 vitamins and minerals, a blend of six dried vegetables, soy protein, chicken flavor and rice.


“The nutrient-rich formula reverses the starvation process and its effects,” according to a brochure.


The response to the Haitian effort was so big that organizer Gary Bersell had to turn at least 75 volunteers away this weekend. But as new supplies arrive, more packaging events will be scheduled.


Each wave of volunteers is asked to donate, and the group sells T-shirts to raise money. Corporate sponsors and the local Rotary clubs also are generous, Wong said.


“It’s incredible what the public has done, and it’s good to realize how precious life can be,” Wong said.


Wong figures the food packaged this weekend may take a month to arrive. He’s gotten an estimate of $2,000 to deliver the food to the U.S. Navy in Norfolk, Va.


“The U.S. Navy is actually transporting our food down to Port-au-Prince, so we know it’s going to get there,” Wong said.


Kids Against Hunger has an intact warehouse and staff in Haiti, Wong said.


HOW TO HELP


Donations may be sent to Kids Against Hunger-Rock County Rotary at 4237 N. County KK, Milton, WI 53563. More information can be found at rotarykidsagainst hunger.org.


Volunteers will be needed for future packaging efforts. To volunteer, contact Gary Bersell at gbersell@kandu


in dustries.com or (608) 755-4123.



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