As a sophomore in high school, starving children in other countries were not on my list of things to worry about. I had homework to do, basketball games to play, and friends to make. I had much bigger problems. When I found out that my Bible class required 10 hours of community service, I was so annoyed that I started to think of ways to avoid serving. I didn’t care for community service at the time and I figured someone else would eventually serve and the work would get done.
To avoid doing the work, I decided I would cheat and fill out forms at the end of the semester that showed how much service I had done even though I wasn’t going to serve. I needed time for the important things in my life, like finding a girlfriend and getting my homework done. However, two of those required hours had to be served at the Feed My Starving Children organization, a place that gives food to starving children around the world. There was no way to skip it. Believe me, I tried.
When the bus pulled up to the curb Wednesday morning, I was excited that we were going to miss the first two and a half hours of school. I sat down next to a friend who muttered sarcastically, “I can’t wait to help save the world!” After a bouncy 15 minute ride in the back of the bus, we arrived at the Feed My Starving Children packaging and shipping facility in Chanhassen, Minnesota. It was a plain brick building with a small parking lot and a tiny front door. Frankly, it didn’t look like much could come from this place.
The employees greeted us with smiles and handed us hair nets while we filed into a dark room to watch an educational video. The video gave us some background information on the children we were about to help and the history of Feed My Starving Children. It reminded me of the commercials I had seen with the sad dogs in them. I didn’t pay much attention to it. There is no way that 40 high school kids can have any impact on children living around the world, I thought. I carried this thought into the packaging area, a grey room with six tables designated for food packaging—so clean it resembled a surgical room. We washed our hands in the sink at the back and took a group photo full of fake smiles, being careful not to touch anything with our hands.
We then split up into teams of six. Each team consisted of a bag holder, rice distributor, potato distributor, two seasoning distributors, a bag sealer and a box packager. My job was to hold the bag under the funnel so my team could pour in the ingredients. I remember the bags were particularly hard to get open and fit around the bottom of the funnel. We started out well, but soon we began to get sloppy. Rice wasn’t making it into the funnel, seasoning was being wasted and I dropped an entire bag of food on the floor. Production came to a halt as we stared at the rice bouncing off our feet. What difference does a bag make? I awkwardly laughed it off with my team and got back to work. We were more careful after the incident, but rice still managed to fall onto the floor.
After an hour and a half, we were brought back into the room where we had watched the informational video. We were each given a small cup filled with the food we had just made. It tasted good, and I was surprised that this mix of rice and potatoes could be so flavorful. A few students even went back to get a second serving. Then our instructor hurried up to the white board and wrote a number, proudly displaying how many children they could feed with the bags of food we had packaged. I was astounded and even proud of the work we had done, until the instructor pulled me aside. He informed me that he saw how much food we had wasted and that it could have fed around 10 children. I felt guilty about the way I had acted and the bus ride back to school wasn’t nearly as fun as it had been coming.
I think I acted the way I did that day because I didn’t understand the impact community service can have, regardless of how many people are being helped. I thought community service was something I was forced to do because I was in a Christian school that cared about the community. Feed My Starving Children taught me that I don’t have to fly to a starving country to make a difference; I can help from my hometown. It also taught me that I only need to help one person to make a difference. It didn’t matter if I helped feed one person or 20,000 people—at least one would feel loved.
I no longer laugh at community service because I understand the impact it can make and I think I can’t believe I get to make a difference today.
About Feed My Starving Children
- Founded in 1987
- Non-profit Christian organization
- Ships food to nearly 70 countries each year
- 92% of annual donations are spent directly on feeding
- 99.6% of food packs safely reach their final destination
- Visit www.fmsc.org for more information
This article was also published in the February 2015 print edition of OUTLOOK, our annual special issue written and designed by Union College students. It was written by written by Dan Carlson, a communication major with an emphasis in emerging media from Wayzata, Minnesota. The print version was designed by Elena Cornwell, who is pursuing a personalized degree in communication and is from Hilo, Hawaii.