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Feed My Starving Children draws volunteers from near and far, towns and cities to MobilePack events

Feed My Starving Children has eight permanent packing sites in the states of Minnesota, Arizona, Illinois and Texas and a nationwide MobilePack Program, which is in 40 states, including Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana. The non-profit organization’s headquarters is in Coon Rapids, Minnesota.

Adults and children gathered at Minnkota Power Cooperative in Grand Forks, North Dakota, to pack food for Feed My Starving Children.
Adults and children gathered at Minnkota Power Cooperative in Grand Forks, North Dakota,on March 25, 2022, to pack food for Feed My Starving Children.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — More than a thousand volunteers of all ages got hands-on experience in charitable giving at the Feed My Starving Children event in Grand Forks.

The annual event, held this year March 25-26, 2022, at Minnkota Power Cooperative in Grand Forks, drew North Dakota and Minnesota volunteers from a 100-mile radius of the city to pack food that will be distributed to 70 countries around the world, including war-torn Ukraine and Haiti.

The food, called MannaPack, which is made up of rice, soy, vitamins and dehydrated vegetables, was formulated by General Mills and Cargill to provide optimal nutrition while not upsetting the stomachs of children suffering from malnutrition.

Feed My Starving Children has eight permanent packing sites in the states of Minnesota, Arizona, Illinois and Texas and a nationwide MobilePack Program, which is in 40 states, including Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana. The non-profit organization’s headquarters is in Coon Rapids, Minnesota.

“We really survive on our volunteers. They donate money to buy the food, and they pack the food,” said David Gunnlaugsson, MobilePack Feed My Starving Children regional development advisor. ”We pack with churches, businesses, you name it, we’ve packed with them.”

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Grand Forks is one of eight North Dakota communities that have hosted Feed My Starving Children packing events. Others are Minot, Fargo, Beaulah, Maddock, Drake-Annamoose, Watford City and Mayville.

A total of 40 events have been held in North Dakota during the past 10 years. Events in the towns and cities have packed a total of nearly 15 million meals — about $3.5 million worth — which is enough to feed about 41,000 children for a year.

“We have a lot of people who come back for us,” said Jodie Storhaug, who has coordinated the event in Grand Forks, North Dakota for the past 10 years. Storhaug organized the first event in Grand Forks in 2012 after volunteering at a permanent packing site in Eagan, Minnesota.

“I was so moved by the fact that I could pack that much in a two-hour period,” Storhaug said. Packing the food was a hands-on way that she could help children, something that she believed would resonate with other people.

A woman with a blue shirt and hairnet stands at a podium with a microphone.
Jodie Storhaug, Feed My Starving Children coordinator in Grand Forks, North Dakota, spoke to volunteers at the March 25-26 MobilePack event at Minnkota Power Cooperative. This photo was taken March 25.
Ann Bailey/Agweek

She was right. The Grand Forks FMSC March 25-26 event drew 1,200 volunteers who packed 272,160 MannaPack meals. The meals were were paid for by about $65,500 in donations from individuals and businesses.

“It’s not just Grand Forks. It takes people from the whole community,” Storhaug said.

For example, a First United Lutheran Church youth group and their chaperones, who totaled 23 volunteers, made the 216-mile round trip trek from Roseau, Minnesota, to Grand Forks on March 25 to help pack food.

Paula Baumgartner, the church’s youth group director, called it a great feeling to help at the event.

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“My kids love doing it,” she said. Meanwhile, it’s rewarding for the volunteers to work alongside family and friends to better the lives of children.

“It’s exciting we can bring people here to do this together,” Baumgartner said.

In Maddock, North Dakota, population 384, each year 500 people gather to pack food, said Barb Rice, the town's Feed My Starving Children coordinator.

Donations from Individuals and businesses and fundraising events throughout the year raised the $24,000 needed to pay for 100,000 meals that volunteers packed in November 2021. The event gives people an opportunity to do a type of hands-on volunteering they otherwise may not have had, Rice said.

“It’s pretty amazing,” she said. “People really want to help … they can get together and give two hours of their time.”

Feed My Starving Children is a perfect fit for small towns, Gunnlaugsson said.

“People work hard. They like being together. They’re generous. Everybody rolls up their sleeves and gets the job done,” he said.

Related Topics: FOODAGRICULTUREAGRIBUSINESS
Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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