Kuemper Catholic School students and volunteers combined efforts recently to package 311,904 meals in the Then Feed Just One program, which assists the severely impoverished nation of Honduras.
Held Tuesday and Wednesday, March 30 and 31, in the high school gym, this was the eighth time Kuemper has hosted a Then Feed Just One packing event since 2008 and brings total packaging to 2,389,908 meals.
The packages will be shipped to Honduras and distributed through children’s homes, orphanages, malnutrition centers and hospitals. A large majority of the meals go to young children, but there are older recipients as well.
Kuemper fourth- through 12th-graders took a turn working at one of the six stations in the gym, with each shift lasting about an hour.
Each bag consists of six meals made up of rice, soy, freeze-dried vegetables and a powder of minerals and vitamins. After students each added an ingredient, the bags were sealed, boxed up and loaded onto a semi-trailer parked outside the north side of the gym.
John Kitch, retired Kuemper High School math teacher who has had a lead role in the Carroll packing events ever since spearheading the first one, was on hand around the clock again this year to lend his help and expertise.
The goal was 300,000 meals, so by reaching 311,904, “it was great,” Kitch said.
With cost of 16 cents per meal, the goal of 300,000 meals meant at least $48,000 in fundraising was needed.
“I always say the money and the people will be there. It just seems to always work out,” said Kitch, who retired in 2019 after teaching 40 years at Kuemper.
Kitch said signs posted before the event showed the big difference a little sacrifice could make. For example, money spent for a latte is the same as 35 meals in Then Feed Just One; a double cheeseburger from a fast-food restaurant, 61 meals; a pizza, 71 meals; and a Call of Duty game, 214 meals.
“We knew we needed to get food down there to Honduras, and we were just going to do whatever we could do, and it came out pretty well,” Kitch said.
In addition to packaging by the students, the public was invited to volunteer after school hours on March 30. Volunteers kept most tables busy from the afternoon until about 8 that night.
Already one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere, the situation in Honduras has grown even more critical since two hurricanes smashed the Central American country last November, followed by COVID-19 and other disease.
“They’ve really been devastated,” Kitch said.
While the United States has various government and charitable programs to help people in need, Kitch said, “Those places (such as Honduras) have nothing.”
He added, “Other groups are going down there with doctors, things like that, trying to help them learn to do things and be more self-sufficient, but unless they’re healthy, it isn’t going to work. That’s why I believe that we need to help others.”
Kuemper in recent years had been on an alternating schedule, one year hosting Then Feed Just One, and the next year sending a team of students and adult chaperones to Honduras (Mission Honduras) to tackle all kinds of projects such as building homes, working on water projects, delivering medical and other supplies, and doing much more.
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted that schedule. This would have been a Mission Honduras year, but due to travel health-safety concerns, Kuemper switched to a packing event.
Kuemper’s participation in Then Feed Just One and Mission Honduras mirrors efforts by Le Mars Gehlen Catholic School. Richard Seivert, who was a teacher, counselor and coach at Gehlen before he retired in 2014, is a Then Feed Just One director and was on hand at the Kuemper event. One of Seivert’s former students is Mike McCarty, veteran Kuemper theology teacher who has participated in a Mission Honduras trip with Gehlen and then brought the idea back to Kuemper.
Seivert said of the packing event here, “I’m always impressed by Kuemper and the cooperation and willingness of administration, students and community to get involved and make a difference in the world.”
Seivert said he’s seen millions of the meals distributed in Honduras and said, “It is an amazing sight to see the smiles on faces.”