A local church hopes to feed thousands of starving people through an event in September.
CRUSH Hunger, short for "Columbians Reaching Unfed Starving Homes," has a dual focus: Help people who are starving in another part of the world, and help people who are hungry in Missouri.
Alive in Christ Lutheran Church in Columbia is partnering with Numana, an international hunger relief organization, to raise money and assemble food packs that will be sent to Kenya.
Stephen McBee, developer of youth ministry at Alive in Christ, found Numana online while doing research on how to help the hungry. He was searching for a one-time event, and this seemed like a good fit.
"We've never done anything like this before," he said.
Volunteers will meet at Parkade Plaza on Sept. 30 to put rice, freeze-dried pinto beans, soy beans and vitamins into meal packs to send to Kenya. Numana will send the food in bulk, but it will be up to the volunteers to divide and package it. Each meal costs about $.30 to buy – that means $75,000 could feed about a quarter of a million people. Alive in Christ is providing some of the funding, but to reach the goal, CRUSH Hunger needs donations from the community.
McBeen said more than 100 people have signed up as volunteers so far, but he's hoping for about 1,000. Each volunteer signs up for a two-hour packing shift, with a goal of getting all the food packed in eight hours.
The church has also joined forces with the Food Bank for central and northeast Missouri. The event will help with the Buddy Pack program, which provides food to school children who don't have enough to eat on weekends. The church and food bank are asking for people to donate jars of peanut butter 16 ounces or smaller. (Larger jars don't fit into the Buddy Packs.)
The church also encourages families to do the "Taste Hunger" challenge: Take one day and eat the kind and amount of food eaten in parts of the world where food is scarce.
"We don't really understand hunger here in America," McBeen said. The challenge is meant to be a tangible lesson, he said.
Each family that participates will receive six servings of food for the day – six cups of rice and beans. For McBee's family of four, that means each person gets just more than one cup of food to last the day.
Aside from teaching people about hunger and providing food to the hungry, McBee said the event has another function: Get people in the church out doing service. Alive in Christ has canceled its church services for the Sunday of the event.
"The doors will be locked," he said.
That way, he said, people will not be sitting in a service, but out doing service.