The volunteers who gathered last weekend in a Clayton church’s fellowship hall were preparing a very different type of Happy Meal for hungry children.
The more than 50 cheerful volunteers stood at long tables where they worked in assembly-line fashion pouring lentils, rice, dried vegetables and pink Himalayan sea salt into plastic bags. The bags were then sealed, boxed and delivered next door to With Love From Jesus, an evangelical outreach based in Raleigh that provides aid to needy residents of Wake and Johnston counties.
The volunteers, all members of Hocutt Baptist Church where the event was held, donned plastic gloves, hairnets and got ready to prepare 11,200 meals.
They worked at a series of long tables, four in all, each surrounded by 10 to 13 volunteers who scooped rice, lentils, dried vegetables and salt from hard plastic tubs that sat atop the tables.
The volunteers funneled the food into plastic bags, sealed with a device wielded by a volunteer. Two more volunteers opened white boxes and filled each one with 40 or so of the bagged meals.
“One bag is equal to six meals,” Brad Lee, the church’s youth minister, said while handing volunteers plastic gloves, hairnets and a sticker that read “Hunger Hero.” “That’s 25 cents a meal, a dollar-fifty for the whole bag.”
The event was a project of Feeding Children Everywhere, a Florida-based charity that mobilizes people to prepare healthy meals for hungry children and families around the world and across the United States.
Brad Fleming, a manager with Feeding Children Everywhere, arrived from South Carolina to help organize the meal prep in Clayton.
Fleming said the 11,200 meals were part of a bigger picture. He said since the charity started in 2010, more than 350,000 volunteers have prepared 53 million meals to hungry children and their families in 47 countries and throughout the United States. Along with churches, Feeding Children Everywhere stages events on college campuses, with businesses and with civic clubs.
“What more can you ask for?” Fleming asked. “Put on a hairnet and gloves and you can help change this world.”
Lee, the youth minister, said the food prepared by the church last year went to Honduras.
“It’s not necessarily local,” he said of the meal-prep event, which the church has staged since 2012.
The charity focuses on feeding children everywhere. It took root in Clayton after a high school student learned about it at summer camp and decided to make it her senior class project.
Allison Mozingo, now a 21-year-old senior education major at Campbell University, was attending Camp Caswell at Oak Island in 2011 when she heard about another Florida-based charity, Change This World, that was also dedicated to feeding hungry families. Change This World sponsored the first two events at Hocutt Baptist Church. The two charities merged in 2015, and Feeding Children Everywhere has been the engine driving the event since the merger.
Mozingo, after summer camp, researched Change This World.
“I fell in love with it,” she said. “I sent a Facebook message to the event coordinator, and she sent me her personal email.”
When Mozingo returned to school that fall, she chose the event for her senior project. She said her project was one of several school officials selected to share with the larger community through her church. Mozingo, who worked as a captain for Saturday’s event, smiled when asked if she aced her senior project.
“They just do ‘pass’ or fail,’ ” she said. “So I passed. I definitely passed.”
Fleming wore several different hats during the day’s event, which began at 10 a.m. and was scheduled to end at noon. He began hours before hauling in the food and equipment used to package it, along with hairnets, gloves, Hunger Hero stickers and other information. He was also the event’s cheerleader.
“It’s healthy, nutritional and it tastes good,” he told the volunteers.
The volunteers watched a short video touting the importance of their work. After they prayed, thumping inspirational music from a Christian playlist erupted from the fellowship hall speakers.
Within minutes, applause broke out at one of the tables where the volunteers had filled one of 40 boxes the group was going to fill with food.
Fleming, now in cheerleader mode, whipped a cordless microphone out of his pocket so his voice could be heard over the music.
“All right! We got a box filled, let’s hear from you guys! You just fed 288 people!” he said.
The applause and cheering grew louder.
“This is not just scooping food,” Fleming said. “It’s changing lives!”