A full stomach is best gift of all

The holiday season is just around the corner, and across the east Valley shoppers are already thinking about what to purchase for the many people on their gift lists.
Instead of spending hours searching for the latest toy or electronic device that might get used for a few hours before getting lost in the shuffle, some people are hoping to find presents that have more meaning.
South Tempe-based Feed My Starving Children, a Christian non-profit organization that helps get food to millions of recipients across the globe, recently announced a line of gifts that are not only attractive and useful but can also help fund meals for starving kids.
The “Gifts That Grow” line ranges in price from $10 to $320, and is available both online and in the organization’s shop at the meal-packing site. There are six selections to choose from—a cross necklace, a Christmas tree ornament and a handmade chili bowl, among others.
Janine Skinner, development adviser for the organization, said the proceeds from the sale of each item bring benefit in a variety of ways.
For example, Skinner said, the cross necklace, which costs $10, will fund 45 meals. Purchasing the Christmas ornament will allow a hungry child to eat for an entire year. And a framed photo that is also part of the Gifts That Grow line and costs $320, will allow an entire family in a developing country to eat for a whole year.
“These gifts are all special,” Skinner said, adding that each meal costs just 22 cents.
“These items all have a built-in donation that goes along with them. Everything we sell goes to feed starving kids, so people can feel really good about buying gifts here.”
In addition to the Gifts That Grow items that are available during the holiday season, Skinner said the Tempe location sells a wide variety of handmade items throughout the year, including jewelry and baskets that are made by artisans in the developing world.
“All year long we are selling items that are made by the very people who we are helping, and a lot of them are made by children,” Skinner said.
In addition to its Tempe site, Skinner said Feed My Starving Children has myriad volunteer opportunities for people who want to help pack food that will be sent to almost 70 countries.
Last year, Skinner said, the non-profit produced 133 million meals at the charity’s meal-packing sites in Tempe, Minnesota and Illinois. Ninety-two cents of each dollar donated goes directly to feeding the hungry, she added.
At the Tempe location, Skinner said around 1,000 volunteers arrive every week for a total of 21 packing sessions.
“The volunteers come as individuals and as families, and we get groups of up to 60 at a time, including school field trips and corporate groups who volunteer as part of team building.”
Once they are trained, Skinner said, the volunteers get busy packing up the food, which she said is a specific meal-formula “superfood” called MannaPack Rice that is scientifically designed to meet the nutritional needs of children.
“The food contains rice, soy, dried vegetables, chicken flavoring, vitamins and minerals. The volunteers put six servings into one bag, and one cup of food a day is enough for kids to grow and thrive.”
Skinner said that the volunteer experience is so important to her and the others that they try to make it as fun and enjoyable as possible.
“We want to make sure they are having a good time, so we get everyone working and it’s really structured and organized, and we’re also cranking the music and people are literally dancing while they are working.”
At the end of the volunteer shifts, Skinner said, everyone leaves feeling both affected and inspired.
“I challenge you to find anyone to spend one to two hours packing up meals here, and not be impacted by the work they have just done.”
Feed My Starving Children’s local MarketPlace is at 7965 S. Priest Drive, Suite 106, in Tempe. Hours are 9 a.m. to noon and 3:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Saturdays.
For more information, or to learn more about volunteering, call 480-626-1970 or visit www.fmsc.org.