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Joshua Thomas
100 volunteers packaged meals for Stop Hunger Now Saturday morning in the Harry Hoag Elementary School gymnasium.

Joshua Thomas
From left, Jessica Boylan, Jackie Herringshaw and Beth Doxtater package meals Saturday.

Joshua Thomas
100 volunteers packaged meals for Stop Hunger Now Saturday morning in the Harry Hoag Elementary School gymnasium.

Joshua Thomas
100 volunteers packaged meals for Stop Hunger Now Saturday morning in the Harry Hoag Elementary School gymnasium.


Stop Hunger Now packages 100,000th meal locally

Thursday, June 12, 2014 - Updated: 10:10 AM


C-S-E Edito

FORT PLAIN -- On Saturday, locals packaged their 100,000th meal in four years as part of the successful, annual Stop Hunger Now initiative, which brings communities and organizations together to raise money to purchase meals for the hungry, which are then packaged by volunteers and sent to needy locations across the globe.

31,000 meals were packaged on Saturday (at Harry Hoag Elementary School) in a two and a half hour span. Only two hours into Saturday's event, 25,000 meals had been packaged, bringing the local total up to 100,000.

Each time 1,000 meals were packaged, somebody sounded a gong. Perhaps symbolic of the massive 100,000 meal accomplishment, the gong toppled over when that goal was reached.

After Pastor Nancy Ryan first put out notice of this year's event in January, $8,000  was raised, a deliberately lower total than usual, as Ryan stated, "we wanted to be sensitive to the recovery efforts and to what was going on in Fort Plain — we didn't want to stretch people."

"The fact that we exceeded our lesser goal by $500 says a lot about our community," said Ryan, who noted that while many of the same organizations -- including religious and school groups -- have participated in every local event, there were many new people in the crowd of 100 volunteering their time on Saturday.

One individual participating for the first time was Undersheriff and NYS Assembly candidate Peter Vroman, who attended with his children, Ben and Alex. Vroman said "it was not just a good experience for me, but for my children."

He continued of seeing the local community come together for a worthy cause, "It makes my heart feel good. Being in police work for 32 years, you see a lot of negative stuff, and this is a really nice contrast to that. People are very charitable, and very kind, in my experience, and it's nice to see that here."

Organizations represented on Saturday included the Canajoharie-Fort Plain Elks, four reformed churches, catholic, lutheran and methodist churches, Liberty, Central NY Lions Club, and three local school districts.

Each package of food assembled Saturday contained a vitamin packet, a cup of soy, a scoop of dried vegetables and white rice on top. The packages are then weighed, and rice is added or removed accordingly. The food packs are then sealed, laid out on a grid of 35 squares (two per square) and are then boxed, sealed and put on a truck heading to the New England Stop Hunger Now warehouse in Marlboro, MA.

"It's not that there isn't enough food, it's getting the food to where it's needed," said Ryan, noting that most of the meals are sent to places where the organization has partnerships with schools, where the meals feed children while also educating them. Ryan explained, "it stops hunger and also builds the ability of the students to learn and then turn around and make a difference in their own country."

New England Program Manager Marc Vermouth noted that today, there's 800,000 people in the world that are chronically hungry. He said that in his opinion, "hunger is a condition of poverty. The solution to hunger is food. The way we have it set up is, 'money equals food'. If you think about it globally over the past seven years, with the huge global recession, the rich have gotten richer, the poor have gotten poorer. Therefore, the need has increased as the population has increased."

Vermouth, who said he attends at least 60 Stop Hunger Now events in New England annually, noted of such events. "they're what keep me going. It's really encouraging."

Of the fact that the community comes together and collectively exhibits humanity's best traits during these annual events, Ryan said, "It's a hopeful feeling. It's a good feeling. So much time is focused on the negative, and it's all we allow ourselves to see, but if you come to something like this, you realize there's more than the negative. There's positive things happening. We're making a difference in the lives of people we'll never meet and never know. 31,000 children will not go hungry tonight because we came and put in a couple hours."

The fact that the event has been held locally for four years straight with comparable results, said Ryan, "says to me that the community, the people, recognize that there's something outside themselves. These people care about what's going on in somebody else's life."

The meals will be stored in the warehouse likely until September, Vermouth explained, noting that they will then be shipped to a needy area of the world. The last two shipments sent from the Marlboro warehouse went to Cambodia and Panama. As soon as the food (which has a long shelf life of two years) is shipped, Ryan will receive an email alerting her of its destination.

When asked whether Stop Hunger Now will continue to be held locally on an annual basis, Ryan sincerely stated a straightforward goal -- "every year until there's no more hunger in the world."

Joshua Thomas - Kasey Mang helps package meals Saturday.

Joshua Thomas - Merrill Rockwell helps package meals Saturday.

Joshua Thomas - Gabe Travis sounds the gong after 1,000 more meals were packaged Saturday.

Joshua Thomas - Front, from left, Simeon Sammons and Jesse Nestler. Back, from left, Gene Ryan and Michael Thomas.

Joshua Thomas - Undersheriff and NYS Assembly candidate Peter Vroman helps measure ingredients.

Joshua Thomas - New England Program Manager Marc Vermouth prepares the pallet of food by wrapping it prior to its journey to MA.


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