Feed My Starving Children is a Christian nonprofit that provides meals for malnourished people in nearly 70 countries. The prepackaged dry meals are funded and assembled by donor-volunteers in the United States. Janine Skinner, Site Supervisor for Feed My Starving Children in Tempe, talks about the organization’s mission.
Feed My Starving Children website
José Cárdenas: It's an opportunity for people to save a child's life and all you have to do is volunteer time for an organization called Feed My Starving Children. It's an organization that packs millions of meals each year. We'll talk to the site supervisor for Feed My Starving Children in a moment, but first here is a little more about what the organization is about.
Video Clip: When I say I'm hungry, what does that mean to you? I think that if we really thought about hunger on a global scale, the reality is more than we can imagine or would ever want to accept. The fact is that one child every five seconds dies from a hunger-related cause. That's like 18,000 kids per day. That blows my mind. How is it that we're comfortable with that? I think it's easy to let that fact just pass us by, unless we put a face or a name with that number. And that number becomes somebody's daughter or son or somebody's grandbaby or brother or sister. I don't think any of us would look a starving child in the eye and say I won't help you and walk away.
Mark Crea: Feed My Starving Children is a Christian organization. We produce a nutritious food that woe send to starving children in 67 countries around the world.
Video Clip: Backed up a big semitrailer full of ingredients and the equipment that's needed to pack.
Video Clip: We bring all of the raw ingredients, we bring bags.
Video Clip: We provide the table and trash bins.
Video Clip: The first thought that crossed my mind is we can do this.
Video Clip: We have churches from several denominations, public schools, a Spanish club from one of the high schools, it's just amazing. A couple of gap stores are coming. The word gets around. It's a wonderful event.
Video Clip: It doesn't how old or how young you are. Everybody has some gift that they can give.
Video Clip: You get high school kids, grade school kids, families, the whole works here. It's amazing.
Video Clip: Our food was scientifically designed to restore a child from malnutrition to health.
José Cárdenas: With me now to talk about the group's mission is the site supervisor for Feed My Starving Children in Tempe, Arizona. Let's talk just a little bit about the national organization and how old it is and how it got started, and then we'll focus on Arizona.
Janine Skinner: We're an organization based in Minneapolis in the Twin Cities area. We've been around for about 25 years. The organization basically started because a gentleman went on a trip to Honduras and saw the tremendous need and really felt like he needed to help. He worked with food scientists back in Minnesota to create kind of a super food that's specifically designed to meet the nutritional needs for malnourished children and to bring them back to health.
José Cárdenas: And then he got people involved all over the country. Arizona, though, this is a relatively new activity. What about five years?
Janine Skinner: We started doing mobile packing events here in the state and about a year and a half ago, we had a site donated to us, which was quite a blessing.
José Cárdenas: Mobile packing meaning you would go from one church to another?
Janine Skinner: We would bring everything to the church. They would host the event, provide the volunteers and provide the funding to pay for the meals that we were packing.
José Cárdenas: You got at least a temporary site, and now a permanent one. Let's talk about that.
Janine Skinner: Terrific so we basically started the temporary site just to see what kind of support we would have here in the state. And it has been a really grassroots movement that has grown virally. Pretty soon, we were turning volunteers away, our site was booked six to nine months in advance. We have now become a permanent site and just recently as of this March, we've extended to full time. We are open -- now, we are open Tuesdays through Saturdays each week, 21 packing sessions per week. It's a tremendous amount of growth from weekends to that point.
José Cárdenas: Some pictures on the screen as we're talking. Is this the local or the national?
Janine Skinner: These are pictures of folks packing and these pictures may have been taken in Minnesota. Our site looks like that.
José Cárdenas: We have some of the local volunteers. What is it that they actually do? There was a mention in the video intro of the scientific composition of these packets. They're all the same?
Janine Skinner: They are all the same. We have four ingredients. The primary ingredient is rice. We also have dehydrated soy for protein and dehydrated vegetables and the flavoring, it tastes like chicken but it's vegetarian so it's culturally acceptable world wide and it's a powdered mix that has 20 vitamins and millions and that's that key ingredient that provides the vitamins and millions necessary to bring the kids to the complete health.
José Cárdenas: And speaking of the kids, we've got some pictures of them receiving this food. We'll have them on the screen as we talk. Now, Arizona's focus is Latin America?
Janine Skinner: We ship to the Philippines as well but because of our proximity, we ship to Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua.
José Cárdenas: A total of 67 countries of mentioned in the video.
Janine Skinner: Around the world, correct.
José Cárdenas: And how does it work out in terms of how you coordinate the efforts here in Minnesota with the recipients?
Janine Skinner: We do our piece, providing the meals. We use volunteers to hand pack the meals. We give our meals away for free to the mission partners that work with. Our meals have a 99.97% success rate to get into the country where they need to go. We're handing them off to the mission partners who live there and work there.
José Cárdenas: You talk about getting to the people who need it. That's obviously been a big issue in troubled parts of the world where the food is not getting through. Any of those issues?
Janine Skinner: Like I said, we have a 99.97% success rate of shipments arriving over 25 years.
José Cárdenas: Everywhere in the world.
Janine Skinner: It's an incredible thing.
José Cárdenas: And are you avoiding some of the trouble spots?
Janine Skinner: No, not at all. We're shipping meals to north Korea, we were helping with the horn of Africa this past fall and it's something again because of our model with our mission partners being in the country that I think works really well.
José Cárdenas: Obviously, from everything you've said in the video, this is a very volunteer-driven effort. Let's talk about that. What is it they do?
Janine Skinner: Our volunteers when they come to pack with us when they arrive, we start with an orientation that has a video. We're very education-focused. We really want to let people know, especially the youth that come to volunteer with us. What world hunger is really all about and help them to understand how lucky we are to live here in the United States because we're all so much more fortunate than the people that we're serving. We take them in and do a real beef orientation on how to pack the meals. It's assembly-line fashion. We can handle volunteers as young as five and we have seated positions for folks who can't stand for two hours. Then we put them to work and we just have them pack for the next hour and a half or so. We play lots of really fun music, it's very lively, it's really fun, entertaining, it's competitive. And at the end of that time, we do a little wrap-up. And that basically consists of giving them their statistics so they know how many meals they packed in that packing session and how many kids that will feed for a year. We serve them a sample of the food at the end of the packing session. And I've just found we don't do any advertising. It's basically word of mouth. We've had about 55,000 volunteers join us so far since we've begun in Arizona, and we have not sought out those volunteers. They've been coming to us because the people who come to back with us want to come back, they want to bring their friends, their family, their coworkers, their school, their church and it's viral that way.
José Cárdenas: On the screen, we have a website where people I assume can go to and get more information. Would that also tell them how they volunteer?
Janine Skinner: Absolutely. Volunteer registration is online.
José Cárdenas: And in terms of growth for the future, we were talking off-camera about the statistics you've got what about 55,000 volunteers counting each volunteer per day.
Janine Skinner: So far. We've packed about 12 million meals in Arizona so far. Our goal for this new year with the growth is 9 million meals at our Tempe site. We also have a vision for expanding here in the valley. The need is so great, 18,000 children die of starvation every single day. We can't stop. We need to pack more meals and there's a great need in our community to provide this kind of a unique volunteer experience. So we are hoping to be able to open a second site sometime in the next two years in Arizona and our goals for that site would be to have a site big enough to pack 25 million meals a year and that would provide that volunteer opportunity for about 115,000 Arizonans each year.
José Cárdenas: And we're almost out of time but assume the source of funding is donations?
Janine Skinner: Absolutely.
José Cárdenas: People can figure out how to give if they also go to the website?
Janine Skinner: Absolutely. You can donate online, as well.
José Cárdenas: Thank you so much for joining us to talk about this wonderful project.
Janine Skinner: Thank you.
Janine Skinner:Site Supervisor, Feed My Starving Children in Tempe;