By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
CORALVILLE — Catholic youths in the Iowa City area had an opportunity to “Rise Against Hunger” earlier this month. Some 240 volunteers gathered at St. Thomas More Parish and in two hours packaged 10,000 meals that will be shipped to schools, hospitals and clinics around the world where there are immediate hunger needs.
On Nov. 5, youths and families filled bags of protein meal, beans/dried veggies, seasoning and rice for “Rise Against Hunger Now,” which is affiliated with Catholic Relief Services. It was a multi-parish effort, with members of St. Mary-Iowa City, St. Mary-Riverside and St. Patrick-Iowa City joining the cause. “It’s so much fun to see the parishes and families come together in unity to help make a difference,” said Michelle Montgomery, youth minister for the Coralville parish. She observed that youths are aware that starvation exists, but it’s out of sight, out of mind until they participate in activities such as packaging food for impoverished families overseas. “It helps youths see and understand the needs of others across the world.”
The food packing has become an annual event for the Coralville parish, now in its fifth year participating in the project. How many 29-cent meals are packaged depends on how many donations are received. This year, individuals in the area donated $5,700.
Ethan Simpson, a youth from the Riverside parish, said it was fun to work with other youths to make meals “for kids who are in need, and maybe only get one meal per day.” The project got him thinking about how he could help families experiencing food insecurity in his own community.
Marnie Vonderhaar, a youth from the Coralville parish, said she was grateful for the experience of packing meals. “This is such an important thing to help people who are experiencing hunger and have no idea where their next meal will come from.”
Participating in the event for the third time was Marijke Nielsen, a youth from the Coralville parish. “I always love the feeling that I get when I am finished. I get the feeling that I have the ability to help many in need. I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to participate in something like this that helps fight against hunger worldwide.”
Montgomery said next year’s food packaging will occur the first Sunday in November. “All parishes are welcome to help in this fight,” she said.
Riverside family helps out
Each fall, the Keith and Penny Sweeting family invite friends and relatives to enjoy hayrack rides, a bonfire and a haunted trail on their farm in rural Riverside. The Sweetings, who are members of St. Mary Parish in Riverside, began charging “admission” this year in the form of food items for the local food pantry. Family and relatives donated a collective eight bags of food items, which were delivered to St. Mary’s during religious education classes the first weekend of November. The sixth- and seventh- grade classes helped unpack the items and restock the parish’s food pantry as they learned about the needs in the community, especially around the holidays, noted religious education teacher Katie Schneider.