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Area Rotary clubs package more than 100,000 meals

Strasburg Rotary Club volunteers left, Reia Williams, Shirley Maddox, center, and Shirley Wymer, right, form an assembly line packaging soy, rice, and vegetables at Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock on Saturday morning. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Marian Schethcel, 11, of Woodstock spoons rice into a bag on a set of scales during the Rotary Club Area 2's Stop Hunger Now project held at Massanutten Military Academy on Saturday during the meal packaging event. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

By Josette Keelor

Kathy Kanter remembers the first year the Strasburg Rotary Club participated in Stop Hunger Now. She and other Rotary members in Area 2 packed rice and soy protein into bags to seal, box and ship to the Republic of Ghana.

The boxes would go to feed school children, who, without the incentive of food, might not otherwise come to school that day. But the story didn't end there.

As Kanter later learned, a friend and fellow Rotary member from the Rocky Mount club was there working on a water well when the Stop Hunger Now boxes arrived, the words of his own Rotary District 7570 staring back at him.

"Talk about a small Rotary world," said Kanter.

Four years later, at Saturday morning's meal packaging event in Woodstock, clubs from Strasburg, Woodstock, Luray, Mount Jackson, New Market and Broadway/Timberville surpassed Area 2's 100,000-meal mark. Last year's packaged meals were sent to Haiti, but Kanter said she doesn't know yet where this year's will go.

According to the website stophungernow.org, the organization's goal is "to end hunger in our lifetime by providing food and life-saving aid to the world's most vulnerable and by creating a global commitment to mobilize the necessary resources."

Since 2005, groups of as few as 40 to 50 volunteers have met to package 10,000 meals in two-hour sessions, forming assembly lines to combine dehydrated rice and soy into 25-cent meals fortified with 21 essential vitamins and nutrients.

The organization also helps with disaster relief and, since 1998, has transported donated products like medicine, soap, vitamins, eyeglasses and birthing kits.

Locally, various schools, churches and other organizations have planned packaging days through Stop Hunger Now. Saturday's event at Massanutten Academy also attracted Boy Scouts of America Troop 5, sponsored by the Strasburg Rotary Club, as well as members from the Strasburg United Methodist Church and St. Paul Lutheran Church, and students from the Interact clubs at Skyline High School in Front Royal and Central High School in Woodstock.

Kanter said Interact is a way for area teens to participate in the Rotary Club at the high school level, though not every Rotary has an Interact Club.

At Strasburg High, a club started by Rotary member and school guidance counselor Amy Zimmerman, with the help of high school juniors Austin Weaver and Rachel Tischler, plans to secure its charter by the end of the next school year, Kanter said.

In addition to packaging food Saturday, Rotary also worked with area schools to collect food for the Compassion Cupboard in Strasburg. It used a $4,000 grant through the Rotary's initiative Operation Warm to purchase 120 coats for area children and reusable grocery bags for families to use at the food pantry. The food collection included products like baby food, diapers, wipes and soap to help fulfill the needs of children and infants.

"That's the one thing that we've done a little differently this year," Kanter said. "We continue to hope that we're spreading [hunger] awareness."

Contact stophungernow.com or 888-501-8440 to organize a food-packaging day.

Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com

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