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Feeding frenzy

Jack Brockley | Sep 18, 2017
Stewartville, Minnesota, volunteers pack food for distribution locally and around the world.

Stewartville is a small, growing town in southeastern Minnesota. Yet it has the power to make a difference in the lives of children in Haiti, Honduras, Mozambique and Uganda. And Stewartville too, of course.

The Stewartville Kiwanis Club is small itself, but its 14 members can recruit 344 volunteers to pack 142,776 meals for children in Haiti, Honduras, Mozambique and Uganda. And Stewartville too, of course.

For the past 14 years, Stewartville Kiwanians have called for help at their Kiwanis Food Pack, and every year, the event is a showcase of community unity. This past April, Randy Schmidt worked the project, and the Minnesota-Dakota District’s Division 7 lieutenant governor has a clear memory of the event: of tables laid out in rows, where assembly lines of hairnet-wearing adults and youth scooped rice, beans, soy, dried vegetables and spices into plastic bags. He remembers the faint scent of those spices hanging in the air and the buzz of conversations that frequently was interrupted by cheers as groups celebrated another finished packet.

And he remembers and marvels at the community-wide involvement.

“Volunteers from Builders Club, Key Club, Circle K, Kiwanis and other organizations worked side-by-side, chatting and laughing as they packed meals,” Schmidt says. “A group from a long-term drug- and alcohol-addiction recovery program assisted with the heavy lifting, delivering bulk food supplies to each table. … Five international exchange students shared that they would not have had this experience in their home towns. … A team from the U.S. Army—a Kiwanis Vision Partner—loaded pallets to fill the trailer. … Our local Rotary clubs joined us in celebration of International Week of Service.

The Stewart, Minnesota-based organization Food for Kidz delivered thousands of the meals to Haiti, Honduras, Mozambique and Uganda. Another share of the packets—assembled by area Kiwanis-family members, Rotarians, recovering drug addicts, Army personnel, 4-H members, church groups and more—was reserved for local use.

“The Stewartville Kiwanis Club has been such a dedicated partner in the fight against hunger for many years,” says Linda Lovik, interim director at the Channel One Regional Food Bank in Rochester. “Just this spring, 23,760 packaged meals were donated to Channel One. When you multiply that by 14 years, the impact is astounding. We are incredibly grateful, as are the people we serve, for these packaged meals that we distribute through our food shelf and our mobile pantry program.”

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