Great Start Pack will support Lawrence food-insecure families

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Although September is Hunger Action Month, it’s never too late to join the fight to end hunger.

On Oct. 6, the United Way of Douglas County will host the Great Start Pack, a food-packaging event to benefit food-insecure families in the Lawrence, Kan., area.

The United States Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as an economic and social condition of unreliable access to food. According to the USDA, 14.5 percent of households in the U.S. were considered food-insecure in 2012.

“People will kind of move in and out of [food insecurity] based on what’s happening in their lives,” said Lori Johns, director of volunteer engagement at the United Way of Douglas County.

The Great Start Pack will package 40,000 meals. Just Food, the local food bank, then will distribute the food to the food-insecure families in Lawrence. Just Food’s mission is to provide nutritious food to those in poverty. According to its website, Just Food, along with other agencies, feeds more than 8,000 people per month.

The meals packaged at the Great Start Pack will consist of beans and rice, both staple foods for a healthy diet.

The food-packaging process is similar to an assembly line. At each stage, the beans and rice are carefully measured into bags and  ingredients are added. Volunteers in the assembly line will add seasoning and vitamins and protein for nutritional value. Then the bags are passed off to be sealed.

Local chef Rick Martin and others will be at the Great Start Pack to offer demonstrations for the volunteers. The chefs will show how to cook nutritious meals on a budget, a skill that would benefit many food-insecure families.

“Too often people are spending a lot of money driving through fast-food places and they’re getting a lot of empty calories for a lot of money,” Johns said. “They could take that money and probably get several meals out of it, if they know how to prepare things.”

Eating a nutritious meal is essential for families who cannot rely on a consistent meal schedule.

The UWDC has an annual campaign designed to raise funds for events such as the Great Start Pack.

The campaign strives to raise more than $1.8 million through its many partners and donors.

Johns said that several hundred businesses and their employees make donations to the UWDC. Their generous donations make it possible for the UWDC to provide meals to Lawrence area families.

The Great Start Pack is one of many ways for volunteers to become more involved with the UWDC and community at-large.

Sierra Glasscock, a junior at the University of Kansas, knows exactly how valuable food-packaging events can be. She participated in one at Kansas City’s Harvesters Community Food Network in 2010. The packaged meals went out to families during the winter holiday season.

“It was a great way to understand the needs of our community,” Glasscock said. “To see how something as simple as organizing care packages for the holidays can make some family’s year.”

The Great Start Pack will be held at Prairie Park Elementary School. The event runs from 12:30 to 4 p.m.

Sign up to volunteer on the United Way Roger Hill website.

For more information on other volunteer opportunities, visit the volunteer opportunities on the United Way Roger Hill website.

I interviewed Emily Ferbezar, an intern at the United Way of Douglas County. Ferbezar is a senior at the University of Kansas majoring in Strategic Communications.

Ferbezar Interview transcript

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