When he visited a Haitian clinic for malnourished children, Tacos 4 Life Director of Missions Kevin Chenoweth held a child whose bones were clearly visible under his skin.
“I remember looking at the nurse while holding this child and asking, ‘Is he going to live to tomorrow?’ I mean, he looked like he was about ready to die,” Chenoweth said. The nurse looked back at Chenoweth and said, “Oh no. He’s great. He’s been here two weeks. If he can last two days in this clinic, there is hope for him.”
Chenoweth realized that while the two dozen children at the clinic were provided MannaPack meals, there were many who weren’t so fortunate.
“It’s the kids that died on the way to the clinic, the kids that couldn’t get to the clinic, the children out there who…are dying every single day that didn’t have the hope because nobody brought them to a place where they could find hope. That’s what broke my heart,” Chenoweth said.
The Tacos 4 Life MobilePack, benefiting the non-profit Feed My Starving Children (FMSC), empowered student volunteers to support sustainable communities by packing MannaPack meals for children in need.
As a John Brown University co-leader for the MobilePack, Elizabeth Grumulaitis’ desire is that students learn and become inspired from their volunteering experience. “I really hope JBU students, not only have fun but also see the ‘head, heart and HAND’ mission in a unique and concrete way. A lot of times at JBU we work at the head and the heart of our school’s mission, but we don’t always get opportunities to execute our mission in ‘hand’ in such a tangible way,” Grumulaitis said.
This year’s MobilePack will feed 378 Haitian children a meal a day for a year through Feed My Starving Children’s partnership with Help for Haiti and Food for the Poor.
Tacos 4 Life, which recently won Arkansas Business of the Year 2018, began working with FMSC in 2012. According to their website, 22 cents of every meal is donated to the fight against childhood hunger in their “Meal 4 Meal” program. In 1987, Feed My Starving Children started with the mission of “feed[ing] God’s starving children hungry in body and spirit,” according to the non-profit’s website.
“It’s estimated that there are 62,000 kids that die every single day due to starvation and starvation-related illnesses around the world,” Tara Bugg, FMSC Senior Event Supervisor said. “That’s a number at Feed My Starving Children that we’re just not ok with. We want to see that number reach zero.”
One way that FMSC strives towards their goal of zero is through MobilePacks, where volunteers hand-pack nutritious MannaPack meals made with vitamins, vegetables, soy and rice, according to their website.
John Brown University students joined with community members and FSMC staff to measure ingredients, fill plastic bags and pack boxes of meals during the February event.
Annette Reyes, sophomore graphic design and psychology major, was excited to finally be able to volunteer. “I wanted to do it last year and didn’t have the time. It’s just a little two hours to give my time to help the kids who don’t have anything. They don’t have the nutrition that they need. This is really just a small part of what God calls us to do, so I’m just glad I’m here,” Reyes said.
When a friend asked Nathan Acuña, junior mechanical engineering major, to skip class and volunteer, he decided to join the event. “It’s a great opportunity to get to help someone else [with] the small things I can do while I’m here in college. A lot of times it’s not possible as college students to maybe go abroad or help every weekend in activities. This is a very accessible way in which I can help someone else,” Acuña said.
The meals from the February Mobile-Pack are a part of Feed My Starving Children’s initiative to build sustainable communities in Haiti by working with Help for Haiti and Food for the Poor, two distribution partners already established in the country.
According to FMSC’s website, MannaPack meals create “a solid foundation to help them regain their footing and provide for themselves consistently. FMSC partners are embedded in communities and help them advance as circumstances realistically permit. Meal supplies are reduced as the community progresses.”
Grumulaitis looks forward to students using their own abilities to impact the world through service and mission.
“I hope JBU takes the example of Tacos 4 Life and the MobilePack to really consider what God has given them a passion for, what skills and unique ideas they have, and redeem the world through unique and new ways to bring light and redeem to all corners of the earth and in all different fields,” Grumulaitis said. “From engineering to teaching to nursing to business, God can work in any major, market or career interest, not just in the church or in nonprofits. I hope Tacos 4 Life, a for-profit restaurant franchise, can be an example of that redemption and calling in action.”