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Talking Points -- A lesson in how to not forget the importance of food

As I drove to the Feed My Starving Children food packaging event late Thursday morning, I felt a gigantic grumble in my stomach - I had forgotten to pick up some lunch before my two-hour slot at the Morris Area Elementary School.

It took a couple of seconds for the irony to hit me: I live with the luxury of being able to forget to eat. We live in a place where taking time out to eat can sometimes seem like an inconvenience - "I was so busy at work I just skipped lunch."

That's because we know, when it suits us, all we need to do is fish our lunch bag out of the desk drawer or just make a quick stop at one of dozens of places in town that carry an abundance of food and all our hunger problems are solved.

So my condition - "starving," we Americans cavalierly call it - was perfect to take part in an event that is intended to keep thousands of men, women and children around the world from actually dying from not having enough to eat. Men, women and children who, in some places, eat dried mud patties to fool their stomachs that they are taking in nutrition.

Feed My Starving Children has been involved in packing food since the late 1980s. When volunteers got involved in the packing in 1993, the volume of meals packed rose. Local folks organized the first packing event in Morris last year and it was an unmitigated success. Morris residents visited a Haitian orphanage in recent years and saw the abject poverty, the deplorable living conditions, and the difference that the boxes with the blue printing on them from FMSC made in their desperate lives.

Each bag of vitamin-enriched vegetable chicken-flavored powder, dehydrated veggies, soy protein and rice provides enough food to feed four adults or six children at an average of about 17 cents per meal.

FMSC buys the ingredients and volunteers pack them up at events like the one in Morris. In 2003, three million meals were packaged and shipped by 17,000 volunteers. By 2008, FMSC volunteers numbered 310,000 and they packed 73.6 million meals.

In Morris last year, organizers expected to pack about 100,000 meals. Volunteers responded in droves - about 750 -- and the first event netted about 146,000 meals. They hope to hit 150,000 meals this year, and they're on pace.

As of Thursday afternoon, people had volunteered for almost 270 shifts in four of the nine shifts planned during the three-day event, and more than 70,000 meals had been packed. A huge influx of volunteers was expected to fill out the final shifts leading to Friday evening's wrap-up.

It's too late for this year, but it's likely another will be planned for next year. Sign up. You meet people you typically might never get to know, the work is fun and before you know it, you're done - the time flies.

And you leave humbled by realizing that the 75-cent can of soda that served as your "breakfast" that morning could have provided 4-1/2 meals for people who never forget that they're hungry.