If the past couple of years have taught us anything, it’s that sometimes in life we are faced with situations that are beyond our control—pandemics, hurricanes, famines, job loss, political unrest and the list goes on. Lifeline Christian Mission, which has been around for 40+ years, knows this all too well. That’s why the mission is committed to packing nutritious meals and donating them to those in need, wherever that might be. Sometimes those meals are sent to locations in the United States and other times to countries such as Haiti and Kenya. These meals are a source of stability and sustenance for adults and children whose lives are in turmoil. In short, these meals spark hope for a better future.
As one mother in Grand-Goave, Haiti, says, “I want to thank the volunteers with Lifeline. When I was so sick, this food helped me a lot. I had just given birth and I was not well. I became very ill…The food did so much for me. Without this food, I would still be sick.”
Keri Owens was introduced to Lifeline four years ago when she participated in a Lifeline meal pack where she helped package meals for Uganda in partnership with Life in Abundance. When Lifeline decided to open a Centre in Louisville, Owens joined the staff as the director. The Louisville Lifeline Centre officially opened in April 2021. Initially, Owens wondered what to anticipate in terms of community response, but she has been pleasantly surprised.
“What we discovered is that people want to serve, and they want to serve together,” Owens says, noting that the Centre seemed to open at just the right time in the sense that people had grown tired of being stuck inside their homes for such a long stretch of time during the pandemic. “People want to have conversations with people across from them.”
At Lifeline Centre, volunteers pack three types of food in the meals: oatmeal, rice and beans and rice and dehydrated veggies. The oatmeal bag contains oatmeal, sugar, cinnamon and a vitamin powder that has 21 essential vitamins and minerals. They include a heaping scoop of soy protein because, pound for pound, soy has three times more protein than red meat.
Each container from https://shipping-container-hire.co.uk/ holds 20 pallets, which equates to roughly 286,000 meals. Each meal or bag has six servings. In third-world country standards, that feeds a family. There are 216 meals in one box. Each meal costs 25 cents; each box costs $54, which includes shipping.
“Through the generosity of local businesses who partner with the Centre, and participants funding the meals they pack, Lifeline is able to share nutritious meals locally and globally to help children and families who struggle with food insecurity,” Owens says.
Packaged meals are shipped in sea shipping containers on boats. Upon arrival, the container has to be cleared through customs before being loaded onto a truck. Once the meals arrive at the final destination, the meals are distributed based on the distribution plan determined by the local ministry.
It truly is the volunteers that keep the mission humming. Right now at the Louisville Lifeline Centre, there are five static days a week that volunteers pack: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. and Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 6 p.m. Other times are filled with what are called ‘private packs,’ which is where people book the Centre themselves, fully funding and packing the meals, then taking them to their mission partner.
“These are organizations who want to do team building or small groups who want to run a campaign and raise some funds to come in and pack meals together,” Owens says. “We then send the food to where the need is.”
All ages and abilities can serve. In fact, children have birthday parties at the Centre to raise funds for their birthday party meal pack.
“Those are my favorite,” she says. Kids (and adults) start a fundraising campaign, share the URL with friends and family members, and people can donate to the party using that link. “We had one kid raise $800!”
The children come to the Lifeline Centre and pack the boxes they have funded, then enjoy their birthday cake.
“It’s exciting to see kids joyfully give their time and money to provide meals for hungry kids around the world!” Owens says. “It’s amazing to see these kids at their birthday parties get so excited to not get a present but instead to pack meals.”
Recently, the Centre had a nonprofit that works with autistic children come in to the mission to pack because they are always looking for opportunities to serve. The nonprofit plan to make it a regular occurrence because those who participated enjoyed it so much. Children get involved in other ways, too. For example, currently the Centre has an Eagle Scout doing a project with Lifeline.
“The Eagle Scout did the research to find out who would take the food. He’s almost like an intern,” Owens says.
The Centre also has something called the Feed the Funnel project in which people donate money towards the mission. Owens has seen boys and girls do campaigns where they take an empty food bag and fill it with coins. Other children bring in their piggy banks and dump their coins into the funnel.
Earlier this year, Lifeline hosted a youth serve day where youth came in and packed meals for area food pantries and shelters. Owens is hoping to do more private packs in 2022 because she feels that doing so brings the experience full circle for everyone involved.
“People have a bigger stake in what they’re doing during those private packs,” she says. “It’s not just coming in, packing meals and leaving.”
Another goal for 2022 is to secure additional anchor partners as they are integral to keeping the wheels moving.
“These are people who want to have a stake here,” Owens says. “We pack for local and global needs. Food insecurity is a huge problem.”
According to Lifeline Centre, a child dies from hunger every 10 seconds. Additionally, nearly one in three people in the world did not have access to adequate food in 2020, which is an increase of almost 320 million people in a single year. But thanks to the scores of volunteers who contribute to Lifeline since 2007, the Centre has sent millions of meals to more than 30 countries, including the United States.
Not long ago, a gentleman stopped into the Louisville Lifeline Centre. He was so blown away by the mission of the nonprofit that he donated $10,000.
“He told us, ‘What you guys are doing here is amazing, and I want to be involved,’” Owens says.
Owens is eager to see what 2022 will bring. They hope to get mission trips started back up again, post-pandemic.
“At some point, people who pack meals here could actually go deliver the food,” Owens says.
“Hunger is rising. Poor nutrition is a serious problem in Haiti. In receiving nutritious food from Lifeline, people recognize it is a gift from God and a huge blessing,” Hugueneau Fontus, Lifeline Assistant Director, says.
Louisville Lifeline Centre is located at 3231 Ruckriegel Parkway, Suite 101, Louisville, KY 40299. For more information, call 502-236-2084, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit lifeline.org/louisville-centre.