Ryan Sanders, assistant program manager with Stop Hunger Now, milled around the crowded room wearing a shirt emblazoned with “Rice Goes Last.”
“We surpassed 7 billion people on the Earth in 2011,” he said. “Out of those 7 billion, 1 billion people suffer from hunger and hunger-related illnesses.”
With the help of area volunteers, relief is now on the way for some of those people.
A variety of area Methodist churches were represented Sunday, with about 150 people working together to fill up 30,000 meal bags in just a few hours.
Each bag will feed six people and includes a mixture of packaged vitamins and minerals, and “heaping” scoops of soy protein and dehydrated vegetables.
A level scoop of rice is the last food item placed in the bag, hence Sanders’ T-shirt slogan.
Eight-year-old Ellie Patton was responsible for putting the packaged vitamins in the bag at her table.
“Because other people don’t have food,” she said. “This is fun.”
For many, it was their first time participating in a Stop Hunger Now event.
“I’m just here to help out,” said John Umberson, a member of Gainesville First United Methodist Church. “It’s something that isn’t incredibly time-consuming or incredibly difficult. It’s something I can do, and it’s local to me, so if I can do it, why not?”
Other churches represented included Antioch, Chicopee, Dunagan Chapel, Midway, New Hope, Pleasant Hill, St. Paul-Summit Street and St. Paul-Washington Street.
The event was held at McEver Road United Methodist Church in Oakwood, in the same room where the weekly contemporary service is held. It was packed with tables as people filled the meal bags; others weighed and sealed the bags on the other side of the room.
“We have an excellent turnout,” Pastor Rob Bruce said. “We’re real happy with that.”
The meal bags will be shipped around the world, to places such as Sudan and Uganda. Sometimes the organization distributes packages domestically in the event of a natural disaster, like Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
The food is simple to prepare by cooking it in six cups of boiling water for 20 minutes. Then, the recipient mixes in the vitamin packet before serving.
“It’s just really cool,” Bruce said. “These are 30,000 meals, but each meal feeds six people. So that’s 180,000 hungry people that are going to be fed with these.”
According to Bruce, the Gainesville District of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church has put together around 275,000 meals over the last year.
“So you multiply that by six, it’s well over 1 million people we’ve fed here (from) this district,” he said.