PALMETTO — A child dies of hunger every six seconds.
That alarming United Nations statistic didn’t sit well with Kathy Williamham when she first heard it.
“All these kids are going to bed every night with no food in their tummies,” said Williamham, of Bradenton. “Think about that when you are lying in bed at night.”
Williamham decided that she had to take action against childhood hunger and got a group of friends together to join Saturday’s inaugural 12-hour foodpacking event sponsored by Manatee Sunrise Kiwanis Club and Kids Against Hunger – Manatee County.
“I have a great group of friends,” she said.
According to the United Nations World Food Program, 925 million people worldwide do not have enough to eat, many of those children.
“There are 900 homeless children in Manatee County,” said Joan Hildebrandt, outreach coordinator for the Manatee Sunrise Kiwanis. “It’s not because there is a lack of food, there is a lack of resources.”
The food packages filled Saturday at an empty storefront in Palmetto will be donated to Manatee County Meals on Wheels.
Each package — rice, dried vegetables, chicken-flavored powder and protein-filled soy mix — is fortified with 21 essential vitamins and minerals. Servings per package: six. Cost: 23 cents per serving.
“The meals are nutritionally balanced,” Hildebrandt said. The meals were developed by scientist to “help counteract the effects of malnutrition.”
The group has sent similar packages to Haiti and other locations around the world.
“Sometimes you watch TV and see these commercials and you feel helpless,” Williamham said. “This is something you can do as an individual that will make a difference.”
As her friends worked, they laughed and sang to keep their flow going.
Four were on scooping duty. Two held the bags that the food was dropped into. A handful of others weighed and boxed up the bags.
A popular hymn was “Picking up a bag, put it in a funnel, no hungry tummies tonight,” sung by Pam McCague, of Venice.
They later broke out into songs from the movie “Lion King.”
And by the end of the day, 7,808 meals had been packaged.
The Palmetto High Key Club, sponsored by the North Manatee Kiwanis Club, accounted for 3,820. Williamham’s team did a little more than 2,000.
As they worked McCague looked up and said, “These little kids will have veggies, rice and soy. And they got us.”
The Manatee Sunrise Kiwanis Club will do packing events for any group of 10. A group must raise at least $575 in order to participate for an hour. Individuals can donate $57.50 to take part in any packing event.
For more information, call Mark Hildebrandt at (941) 720-1486.