Joni Juergens, Wisconsin Patcraft account manager, recently completed her 14th year with Food for Kids, an international mobile food packing organization based in Stewart, Minn. This organization hosts approximately 150 events around the U.S. to pack roughly 10 million meals for children in local communities and around the world.
Juergens is very passionate about being part of this organization. She is the volunteer coordinator who handles public relations for the Food for Kidz event in Waunakee, Wis., and has been on the event committee since it started 14 years ago. The team sets up workstations in an assembly line style to put together meals designed for complete nutrition. The primary meal is rice and red beans (or soybeans), dried vegetables, and a protein powder. A second meal, developed by the Waunakee team created based on the needs of local food pantries, is a fortified oatmeal breakfast.
This year's event, hosted in October, brought together approximately 2000 volunteers over the course of 9 hours. The volunteers brought over 28 tons of food to the high school gym and completed 504,000 meals by the end of the day. At the end of the day, Dane County Community Action Coalition picked up 150,000 of the oatmeal breakfasts for distribution to local food pantries, and Feed My Lambs, a school and orphanage in Haiti, will receive 250,000 meals of red beans and rice.
Feed My Lambs and the Waunakee team created a partnership through Food for Kidz, which now includes volunteers that follow the food to Haiti each year and help locally. The children who come to Feed My Lambs for school attend Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Most of those children have nothing to eat the days they are not in school. Feed My Lambs can now send the children home with meals so their families have food to eat on the days school is not in session. The Waunakee team has also sent agronomists to help start a small farm to add fresh food to their meals.
The balance of the food from the Waunakee event went back to Food for Kidz's parent organization in Minnesota and will be distributed where the need is greatest in the world. Over the 14 years that this event has been held in Waunakee, 3.4 million meals have been made.
"This is a small way I can contribute to my community," said Juergens. "We transform the lives of our volunteers, who put the needs of hungry children ahead of their own. We also hope to transform the lives of those who enjoy the nutritious food. Every year at our event, there is a point in the day when I become overwhelmed by gratitude for the work of so many people who want to transform the lives of others that they will never meet. This whole organization is love in action, and it is a privilege to be involved in it."