Herald JournalHerald Journal, Nov. 3, 2003

Locals nearly halfway to gathering 1 million food packets for hungry children

By Troy Feltmann

John Neisen of Stewart and Bob Wacker of New Germany are doing their best to help fight hunger.

Feeding Children International has a mission to provide nutritious meals to needy children locally and around the world.

Neisen is almost halfway with his personal goal of gathering 1 million food packets for hungry children locally, across the US, and worldwide. Wacker agreed to help him with 100,000 of the packets.

Neisen wanted to do his part.

"I went down to New Hope to help package food and load containers one day. That food was being shipped to Uganda," Neisen said.

"When I saw what they were doing it wasn't a question if I was going to help, but what I was going to do," Neisen said.

Neisen decided to start a Kids Against Hunger satellite out of Stewart. Neisen bought a bus to start a mobile packaging unit.

"The bus was my idea. I'm from a small town. It was easier to go to the volunteers," Neisen said.

"Wherever there is someone who says they will help, we go," Neisen said.

Workers volunteer to fill bags with a mixture of rice, textured soy protein, dehydrated vegetables, and a vitamin mix with chicken flavor.

Since 1995, seven million packaged meals have been delivered to two million kids throughout the world.

The military ships the food overseas at no charge.

"Our satellite has produced 400,000 meals," Neisen said.

Neisen and Wacker have been business associates and friends for a long time.

"Bob said we should go to New Germany and I said 'all right,'" Neisen said.

"I told John I would help fill 100,000 bags," Wacker said.

This organization is completely non-profit with 100 percent of the money used to buy ingredients and supplies for the food packs.

"This organization is very real. You don't walk away wondering if your time and money is going to do any good," Neisen said.

"You help get boxes of food out. What a unique opportunity to be of service. That is what I want every volunteer to feel," Neisen said.

Neisen bought five buses for the mobile packaging. One is now in Park Rapids and one is in Minneapolis.

"If we can raise enough funds to cover food and packaging, I can donate my money towards buses. I can give buses to others to start satellites," Neisen said.

There are several levels of participation. The minimum is just show up and help fill bags of food, he said.

The next level of participation is if groups or organizations are willing to set up a packaging session with the mobile bus.

The last level of participation is either to do fundraising or donate money.

"The money is strictly to buy food, bags, and boxes," Neisen said.

About 40,000 children around the world under the age of five die of starvation and hunger each day, according to the United Nations World Health Organization.

Those interested may check out www.feedingchildren.com to get information on Feeding Children International.

Those with questions, or who would like set up a mobile packaging day in their area, may give Neisen a call at (320) 212-5290.

Neisen also packages food the first Wednesday of each month at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. at Cactus Jack's in Stewart. Those who wish to volunteer are welcome to do so.

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