News and Views

Churches, community and kids feed the hungry together

Posted by Linda Worthington on

By Linda Worthington|
UMConnection Staff 

When two churches come together to make change in the community, almost anything can happen.

As an action for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the congregations of Bethesda UMC and Chevy Chase UMC, which are pastored by the Revs. Jenny Cannon and Kirkland Reynolds respectively, came together to pack meals for the hungry.

In a two-hour blitz, about 120 people, ranging in age from toddlers to great-grandparents, swarmed into the fellowship hall at Bethesda UMC and packed 20,088 meals under the guidance of Rise Against Hunger, formerly known as Stop Hunger Now.

Upon arrival, volunteers made name tags and donned red net caps to cover the hair. The room soon became a sea of red. They also put a latex glove on their “dominant hand,” the one that might touch the dried foods being packed.

Yasmin Ibrahim, the community engagement coordinator for Rise Against Hunger, called the pandemonium into order at 10 a.m., and gave instructions:

  • Five people work at the funnel stations, filling the bags with the soy mixture first, then the red vegetable flakes, and last with a cupful of rice, she said, telling exactly how much of each was to go into the bag. She was insistent on rice being last, which soon was explained by the actions at the weighing stations.
  • Volunteers were asked to weigh the bags to between 294 and 385 grams, then staple it shut. If the weight falls short, she said, add more from the rice bin in front of you; if it is too heavy, take enough out, with the tablespoon provided, and put it in the rice bin.
  • When the completed bag is full, stack it in a blue-banded bin and carry it to the boxing station, a little further back in the hall, where it will be sealed securely. The tables there were marked out in 18 precise squares with the instructions to put two completed bags on each square. When the 36 bags were stacked they were moved into the shipping cartons and other volunteers operated the packaging tape devises to secure them for shipping – each carton containing exactly 36 meals.

Ray Buchanan, a United Methodist minister, founded Stop Hunger Now in 1998, and in 2017 it was rebranded to become Rise Against Hunger. The organization’s vision for ending hunger by 2030 is through mobilizing a global network of hunger champions. The millions of nutritious meals produced annually are distributed through partners in countries around the world.

With approximately 794.6 million hungry people in the world (an 8 percent reduction from 1990), it seems like a monumental and impossible task. (To learn more about World Hunger, see

The millions of nutritious meals produced annually are distributed through partners in countries around the world. Through monitoring and evaluation, Rise Against Hunger ensures that the meals distributed by the partners are used to change lives through education, improving students’ health and nutrition, addressing gender inequalities, fighting child labor and stimulating economic growth. Many of these changes come about through the community empowerment by working with farmers and fishermen to improve production, business skills and market access. (See: )

Children were everywhere at Bethesda UMC and soon became efficient and proud couriers to move bins from one station to another, while the teens and adults filled, weighed and boxed the meals. At intervals, Ibrahim, dashing here and there, answering questions right and left, and directing the refilling of the supply bins as needed, would bang on a gong to lessen, if not stop, the chatter and announce that 1,000 meals had been packed, 6,000 were packed, 10,000, 15,000 and on to 20,000, the goal for the day.

Children also became adept at helping to clean up the spilled rice and soy mixture, scooping it into bowls and dustpans and running it to the waste bin.

The filled cartons were placed on a large dolly and taken to a truck waiting outside, where the boxes were loaded. When full at the end of the two hours, Ibrahim drove it to the Rise Against Hunger warehouse in Ashburn, Va. 

“We expect to load it onto a ship Wednesday,” she said, “and from there this shipment will go to Peru.”

MLK would have been proud on this service day, as two churches came together to provide meals for another 20,000 undernourished children and adults.




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