Recently, Wanda Day, President of the Sunrise Rotary Club and Event Chair Wayne Purvis gave local residents an opportunity to participate in the ‘Kids Against Hunger’ project. Steve Popper, a Naples Rotary Club member brought the program which bags food for those in need to Southwest Florida in August 2007. Since then, over 6,000,000 meals have been packaged locally.
Although Kids Against Hunger bagging events are held periodically in Naples, it was the first event for Marco Island. Supported by the Sunrise Rotary Club, Marco Island Chamber of Commerce, and the Kiwanis Club, over 200 people representing organizations such as the Optimist Club, Boy Scouts, Key Club, Gulf Coast High School, and Lely High School converged at St. Mark’s Church. High school students Gabriela Cardenas and Kaitlyn Macris, both Key Club presidents, along with National Honors Chair Andrew Nashed said it was not only fun but fulfilling to know they were helping others.
Volunteers formed an assembly line where they combined dried food ingredients in small bags which were then weighed and sealed. From there the bags were counted, boxed, and crated before being placed on pallets.
Although some of the food is distributed in countries such as Jamaica and Haiti, the majority stays in Collier and Lee Counties. Primary agencies like the Harry Chapin Food Bank and Collier Harvest will distribute the meals to St. Matthew’s House, Guadalupe Center, and 150 similar organizations. The goal for Saturday’s project on Marco Island was to package 43,500 meals. According to Popper, each meal will be distributed in Collier County this week.
When cooked, each bag of dried food makes six meals. The ingredients include rice, 6 dried vegetables, 50% protein and 21 vitamins and minerals. Several months ago Popper changed the recipe by adding dried cooked beans for increased nutritional value.
‘Kids Against Hunger’ has contracted with the Collier County School District to provide 12,000 packages per week for their ‘backpack meals’ program. This program bridges the gap for many students who don’t have access to regular meals when their school cafeterias closed. The need in the Collier County school district is evident with 52% of the student population receiving subsidized lunches.