Fairfield churches help alleviate hunger
Last year, Fairfield area volunteers helped Mt. Pleasant based organization, Take Away Hunger provide 3 million meals to hungry people all over the world. This year, they aim to do it again from 1-4 p.m. Sunday at the World of Life Lutheran Church.
As they’ve done in years past, the group hailing from six sponsoring Fairfield area churches will package tens of thousands of meals — helping Take Away Hunger reach its goal of feeding the nations.
“Our packing goal for this session is 27,000 meals, so we will need all of the volunteers that we can get,” said event coordinator Don Henderson.
Henderson attends the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Fairfield.
“We started this at our church in May of 2010, and we hooked up as a group in September of 2012. We had three other churches join us and we’ve packed over 306,894 meals through last September,” Henderson said. “We normally do two [packing events] per year. Each meal costs a quarter, and there are six meals in each bag.”
Churches currently involved in the event are: Fairfield Friends Church; First Baptist Church; First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); First Presbyterian Church; Word of Life Lutheran Church and Faith Methodist Church of Libertyville.
The event is prepaid, and food is brought from the organization’s warehouse in Mt. Pleasant, ready for volunteers to pack.
Henderson explained one simple fundraising idea where church members have saved quarters over a few months that turned into major meal purchasing power.
“We save quarters … if 50 people save a quarter a day for three months, that turns into at least $1,000,” he said. “It doesn’t come out of the church’s budget and it’s less that a can of pop!”
Although the money for this project has already been committed, Henderson said anyone could help out physically.
“The more the merrier. Just come in anytime between 1-4 p.m. We divide it into two shifts and some people stay all day,” he said. “We set up around five lines at Word of Life Lutheran Church in the gymnasium and it takes around 12 or 13 people to run a line. We usually have 100 to 200 people show up.”
Henderson said he thought the meals might have gone to Haiti and Guatemala; and that the work couldn’t have been accomplished without the organization’s founders, Don and Sandy Fields of Brighton.
“This guy is something else,” Henderson said of Don Fields. “He just bubbles with enthusiasm. They have just devoted their lives to this.”
The Fields, who started Take Away Hunger last year, went into missions full-time nearly two-decades ago with Kids Against Hunger. During the last four years, the couple has organized packing groups or units around eastern Iowa and started Take Away Hunger last year.
“We’ve done that consistently for the last four years, and we continue to increase picking up more centers in the state of Iowa,” he said, adding that in addition to sending meals abroad, the organization also supports local feeding efforts, such as backpack meals for children who could go hungry over the weekend.
“One out of five children in the state have no food at home; this causes a learning problem ... to me, Iowa is the breadbasket of the world. Why do we have anybody hungry here.”
The organization works with Iowa State University to formulate both domestic and international meals to ensure that both are nutritious.
“These are highly nutritious packages put together by a team of food scientists,” he said. “This last year we worked with the food science department of Iowa State University, they reformulated our international meal, they created a black bean rice meal for us and we’re working on a mac-n-cheese. The black bean and rice and mac-n-cheese will be a domestic meal that we will use specifically in Iowa.”
Although millions of people have been fed because of the organization throughout the state and the world, the Fields have even greater goals.
“It’s a big operation, but our goal is to have 50 units,” he said.
Besides Fairfield, the organization has packing units in Keokuk, Marion, Mt. Pleasant and groups all over Eastern Iowa.