UPDATE: Results from the first-ever Fight Childhood Hunger Project are in, and the people of Greater Cincinnati delivered.
Nearly 400 volunteers helped A Child's Hope International produce more than 133,000 high-protein meals for local children experiencing hunger.
Volunteers ranged in age from 6 to 66, said Stephen Pauley, the organization's director of ministry advancement. The meals were donated to Freestore Foodbank in Cincinnati and Shared Harvest.
"We had overwhelming volunteer responses to our efforts," Pauley said, adding that all those meals were packed during two sessions.
SHARONVILLE, Ohio — For most of the year, A Child's Hope International focuses its hunger relief efforts on the millions of children in developing countries who don't know from where their next meals will come.
But for a week in April, the Sharonville nonprofit will turn its attention to the thousands of local children who experience hunger, too.
Those meals will be distributed to food pantries throughout Freestore Foodbank's 20-county service area, where 100,000 children are dealing with hunger every day, said Kurt Reiber, Freestore Foodbank's CEO.
"That's enough children to fill up Great American Ball Park twice," Reiber said.
It's a painful symptom of our region's persistent childhood poverty problem.
Across the Tri-State, one in five kids — or 105,000 children — live below the federal poverty level.
The rate is even worse in the city of Cincinnati where nearly half of all children — a stunning 47.2 percent — live below the federal poverty threshold, according to five-year estimates released as part of the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.
Both those estimates are worse than comparable figures released in 2014.
The numbers are so big that they can be overwhelming. But volunteering for the Child Hunger Week Project is one way that you, your friends and family can help.
A Child's Hope International will be packing the meals during two, three-hour sessions on April 16 — one from 9 a.m. to noon and another from 1 to 4 p.m.
The organization will need hundreds of volunteers at each session to produce and hand package the high-protein meals that the organization will donate.
Volunteers will take part in a 20-minute presentation that explains the mission of A Child's Hope International and then form assembly lines around long tables to assemble and pack the meals.
Each package contains enough food to feed six children, said Stephen Pauley, director of ministry advancement for A Child's Hope International.
There are other ways to help, too.
Power to Provide Solutions
A Child's Hope International is seeking sponsors to help pay for the ingredients that are used to assemble the meals.
It costs $25,000 to pack 100,000 meals, Pauley said. So the organization needs to raise $75,000 in order to reach its goal of 300,000 meals, Pauley said.
You could also be a donor. A Child's Hope International has a way to donate money online, and a $10 donation can provide 40 meals.
The other way to help is to spread the word. On its special Child Hunger Week website, the organization has a button you can click to get more information about how to raise awareness about the event.
You don't have to write a big check to make a significant difference in this effort to fight childhood hunger.
And you don't have to have any special skills to volunteer.
"We've had 6-year-olds next to 86-year-olds — one standing and one in a wheelchair," Pauley said. "We do want people to understand that they have the power to be the solution provider."
It's a powerful message — and an important one to keep in mind as our region works to reduce our shameful childhood poverty rate.
Just think: over a six-hour period, hundreds of local volunteers will be able to pack enough food to provide 300,000 high-protein meals.
The only other ingredient that families will need is water and a way to boil it in order to cook a package that can feed as many as six children.
And that will be a big help to the parents who rely on the Freestore Foodbank — 74 percent of whom have jobs, Reiber said.
"They're just not earning enough to make ends meet," he said. "It's a challenge."
Let's make the Child Hunger Week Project a success and give those parents — and their kids — one less thing to worry about.
For more information about the Child Hunger Week Project and how to help, click here.
For more information about Freestore Foodbank, click here.
Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and also shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. Childhood poverty is an important focus for her and for WCPO.