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Church groups, officers, other volunteers step up in St. Paul to pack 4.9M meals for Somalia famine relief

By Selam Berhea

St. Paul Pioneer Press

ST. PAUL — Thousands of volunteers have worked alongside each other the past four days to help a starving nation on the other side of the world.

They manned rows upon rows of tables that became meal-packing stations in St. Paul’s RiverCentre. There were church groups from Milaca, police officers from St. Paul, immigrant groups from across the metro area and student organizations from local colleges — all lending their helping hands.

“We are one hand,” volunteer Hanadi Ahmed, 20, said of the collected effort. She and her friends Amina Warsame and Ayan Ahmed, both 19, spent the weekend volunteering. The young Somali Minnesotans packed meals while fasting for Ramadan.

Organized by the local nonprofit Feed My Starving Children, the operation was a finely tuned assembly line. Some volunteers poured ingredients, others sealed the bags, a few filled boxes and yet others ran the boxes to their next destination.

The meals will go to Somalia, which has been struck by famine. Oxfam, an international agency addressing global poverty, estimates that nearly 2.9 million people in Somalia are “facing acute food insecurity.”

Final count

With the last shift of volunteers ending at 5:45 p.m. Monday, a total of 4,906,440 meals had been packed. That is short of the 6 million-meal goal, but organizers were grateful for all who helped and pleased with the effort, particularly considering the short amount of time spent planning.

It “came together so quickly. There was no one driving force behind this — it was really was grass-roots,” said Andy Carr, vice president of development and marketing for Feed My Starving Children. Often, such events take a year to plan. The St. Paul effort came together in less than two months.