Food for Kidz in midst of annual drive
LAKEFIELD — Food for Kidz is once again in the middle of its annual fundraising effort as it prepares to bag meals for children in need from 7:30 to 11 a.m. Sept. 27 and noon to 5 p.m. Sept. 28 at the Immanuel Activity Center in Lakefield.
The minimum goal for the project is $15,000. Each bagged meal costs 15 cents; the group will be able to bag 100,000 meals if the goal is met.
Fundraising Coordinator Marless Cuperus said money is coming in at a pace that’s ahead of schedule, largely thanks to the support of area businesses. Fourteen businesses are donating to the effort for the first time this year. Their names, along with the other businesses that have contributed, will appear on the back of a T-shirt that will be available for purchase — the proceeds of which will also go towards bagging meals.
After nine years assembling nutritious dried bagged meals, the group has bagged 774,870 meals and is on track to hit the one million mark next year.
While some of the bagged meals are donated to local food shelves, the majority are sent to other countries.
“Half of the meals this year will go to Honduras, where there is an orphanage and a street children feeding station that we support,” Cuperus said.
The other half of the meals will go to Afghanistan through the Lamia Afghan Foundation and the Bayat Foundation.
“It was started by a three-star Air Force general,” Cuperus said of the Lamia Afghan Foundation. “So when the military cargo planes come into Minneapolis every few months, our meals go out on the cargo planes for free. It’s a great connection and a great way to do it.”
In the past, meals packaged in Lakefield have been sent to other countries in response to natural disasters.
“Other years, the meals have gone to Pakistan. They went to Haiti when they had the earthquake and Indonesia when the tsunami hit,” Cuperus said. “Although, the first year we bagged, they all stayed in the United States, because it was during the hurricanes in the Gulf Coast.”
To turn the purchased food into bagged meals, Cuperus is looking for volunteers of any skill level and of any age — “from 6 to 96,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter if you have a disability or are in a wheelchair — there is something you can do,” she said. “It’s a great way to do something with the community, with your children or grandchildren or a group that you’re in.”
Groups of any size and for any time commitment are encouraged to help with the project.
“We’re looking for singles, doubles, teams and groups,” Cuperus said. “We can use long time commitments if people can come, or shorter time frames if that’s all they have.”
Cuperus added that larger groups are asked to call ahead so adequate work space can be prepared for them.
At least 300 volunteers would allow the group to bag 100,000 meals over two days, although Cuperus said the group made due with less last year.
“We were 30 to 40 people shy last year, but everyone wanted to reach 100,000 meals,” she remembered. “So when I asked if they would stay, unanimously everyone wanted to finish and keep bagging meals. So we did an hour push and bagged 100,008 meals because that’s how many filled a box.”
Cuperus will be accepting donations for the project until Sept. 28 — the final day of the bagging.
“We appreciate anyone who cannot come, but who still wants to send a donation,” Cuperus said.
Helping those less fortunate through donations or volunteered time remains the reason behind Cuperus’s efforts.
“We are so blessed in the U.S. We have so much, and there is something so wonderfully satisfying about coming together as a community and as the whole region of southwest Minnesota and doing something that is going to provide enormous nutritional value and quality of life for kids — particularly street children and children in orphanages,” she said. “With proper nutrition, you can change the quality of a life, and it’s a fun way to do something really good.”
Donations for Food for Kidz can be sent to Food for Kidz at 908 N. Pleasant St., Lakefield 56150. For more information or to volunteer to bag meals, contact Cuperus at (507) 662-5254 or by email at email@example.com.
Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at 376-7322.