On Saturday, April 29, approximately 300 volunteers packaged 12,500 meals at Bertha Holt Elementary School. The meals, mixtures of beans, rice and other dry ingredients, were then to be sent to four elementary schools in Lane County.
Volunteers, from toddlers to adults, worked at rows of tables in a room that serves as two separate cafeteria and gym rooms during school days at Holt Elementary. Individuals at each row of tables worked as a part of an assembly line packaging pouches of dry ingredients. Within two hours, 12,500 individual packets were placed in cardboard boxes.
The event was hosted by Generosity Feeds, a seven-year-old organization that strives to bring an end to child hunger in the U.S. Generosity Feeds works with various businesses, such as the restaurant chain MOD Pizza, to fund and carry out meal-packing events across the country. This year, Generosity Feeds has provided food for about 1.2 million children in the U.S., events manager Ami Oldenburg said.
Food insecurity is a national issue, with one in five children nationwide facing hunger, according to Generosity Feeds’ website. However, it is also a local issue. The website adds that in Lane County alone, 53 percent of children suffer from food insecurity. Of the 575 students currently enrolled at Holt Elementary, 60 percent rely on the school’s free lunches and weekend meal packages handed out on Fridays, Principal Joyce Smith-Johnson said.
“We don’t realize [child food insecurity] is right here in our backyards,” Oldenburg said.
Kinni Rae Vasquez, a first-time volunteer with Generosity Feeds and Lane Community College transfer degree recipient, said that when she was a child, her parents paid for her school lunches but did not always have the money to pay for them. Now, Vasquez has a nine-month-old son and this event hits even closer to home for her.
“I know it would devastate me if I could not feed my son,” Vasquez said.
Generosity Feeds founder and CEO Ron Klabunde was inspired to start the organization when a businessman — after Klabunde had led an event in which food was packaged and sent to children overseas — asked him what he would do for children in his own country. Originally focused on feeding children in Washington, D.C., the organization began working cross-country. Its first event held outside the D.C. metro area was in Eugene in 2013, according to Klabunde.
Jon Crowe, the lead facilitator of Generosity Feeds, added that the organization’s progress is due to the grassroots movement that supports it.
“Change happens when a community recognizes a problem, and we then give them to tools to solve that problem,” Crowe said.
The “shared value and united cause” between volunteers from various backgrounds are what cause change in communities, Klabunde said, noting that there were people from a wide range of ethnic, religious, cultural and financial backgrounds in the room that day.
“We have a few multimillionaires in this room packaging food for children in our community,” he said.
Oldenburg made a similar comment when she said that although feeding thousands of children is powerful, what truly causes impact is the teamwork and relationships formed between community members of vastly different walks of life. These individuals will then continue to make changes beyond the events.
“We want to inspire others to be great by doing good,” Oldenburg said.
With the support of volunteers, Generosity Feeds strives to reach every American county in the near future to feed children who struggle with food insecurity. Individuals, businesses and organizations can make donations and offer to host meal-packaging events via Generosity Feeds’ website as well.