Food for Kidz bagging event seeks volunteers, fundsLAKEFIELD — There aren’t too many opportunities in southwest Minnesota to be able to help the hungry halfway around the world, but on this Friday and Saturday in Lakefield, people of all ages can have a hand in packaging meals for needy kids.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
LAKEFIELD — There aren’t too many opportunities in southwest Minnesota to be able to help the hungry halfway around the world, but on this Friday and Saturday in Lakefield, people of all ages can have a hand in packaging meals for needy kids.
This year marks the eighth annual bagging event for Food for Kidz, formerly Kids Against Hunger, and there is more need than ever, according to Southwest Minnesota Food for Kidz Fundraising Coordinator Marless Cuperus.
An estimated 300 volunteers are needed to help package meal kits in the two-day event, and the campaign is still approximately $500 short of its goal. The event is from noon to 5 p.m. Friday and 7:30 to 11 a.m. Saturday, at Immanuel Lutheran Church’s activity center, 620 Bush St., Lakefield.
“Our goal is to bag 100,000 meals,” Cuperus said, adding the cost for each meal is 15 cents. That means $15,000 must be raised to meet the meal goal.
With just a few days to go, Cuperus said approximately $10,000 has been raised — most coming from the Chili Cook-Off fundraiser conducted in February and the 5k run-walk hosted during Lakefield’s Summerfest celebration.
“We are hoping to get more (funds) in the next few days so that we can bag the 100,000 meals,” Cuperus said. Any money raised over the $15,000 will be used to purchase more supplies so more meals can be bagged.
The packaged meals have gone to support children, many of them in orphanages, around the globe.
“If there is a disaster anywhere in the world, then our meals would go to those,” Cuperus said.
In 2005, meals went to the U.S. Gulf Coast to serve victims of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, and in 2010, they were delivered to people in Pakistan.
“This year, we don’t know specifically where they’re going,” said Cuperus, adding there is a regular feeding station in Honduras that may get some of the meals.
“It’s important that these meals are delivered to a viable, effective, charitable organization so they don’t end up in the black market or sitting on a warehouse shelf,” she said. “They are literally delivered and handed off by a member of Food for Kidz to the charity that’s going to be getting them.”
In the seven bagging events conducted in Lakefield, Cuperus said southwest Minnesotans have packaged 674,864 meals.
Those meals, developed by nutritionists in Minnesota, meet a child’s needs no matter where in the world he or she lives.
“It tastes very much like a chicken and rice hotdish,” she said, adding the ingredients include soy protein, dry vegetables, a vitamin-chicken mixture and rice. In the past, they’ve made up a batch to give volunteer helpers a sample.
The Food for Kidz event began as part of a church project, but has since blossomed to include not just the community of Lakefield but several surrounding counties as well.
“It’s really, really fun, but you come away feeling like you’ve done something for someone other than yourself,” Cuperus said.
Volunteers ages 7 to 97 are encouraged to help for an hour or for several hours, Cuperus said, adding that there are tasks for people of any age.
“We’ve had people using walkers and wheelchairs,” she said. “It’s not something where you need to have a certain skill level. We will direct you to the kind of task you’re interested in doing. You just go at it at the pace you are comfortable functioning.
“You’d be amazed by how much you can do in a half-hour’s time,” she added. “We have people that come year after year and bring their children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews or their work group.”
People work in teams of five, and if a group wants to work together, Cuperus encourages signing up in advance by contacting her at (507) 662-5254.
Also, anyone who would like to donate funds to help meet the goal may send checks to Foods for Kids, care of Marless Cuperus, 908 N. Pleasant St., Lakefield 56150.
“We are an extremely fortunate people that live in an area where the majority of us never have to think about whether we have enough to eat,” Cuperus said. “This is a marvelous opportunity to share, to give back, to be part of a marvelous, worthwhile and fun event.”
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.