A new factory has relocated to a strip mall in Milford, but its product is a little unexpected.
Kids Against Hunger is a private non-profit organization started by former pastor Larry Bergeron to provide nutritious food for starving and undernourished children locally, regionally and internationally.
Kids Against Hunger packages individual meals for shipment all over the world. The supplies are delivered to contacts Bergeron has made at local and regional food banks and in countries in Central America, Africa, and the Caribbean. About 40 percent of Bergeron’s contacts are in the United States, but 90 percent of the meals made go overseas. Bergeron ensures the contacts distribute the nutritious food properly.
"We're so excited to be here and we're looking forward to being here for many years," Bergeron said.
Nearly 200 volunteers come to the factory every other Saturday to measure and place rice, six vegetables, a highly fortified soy base, and 21 vitamins and minerals into individual vacuum sealed packages which are boxed up and organized for distribution. The volunteers can package between 60,000 and 80,000 meals in a two hour shift. Marketing and development director Bob Mayer said volunteering at the factory is often a family affair with volunteers ranging from three to 83. Over the last two years Kids Against Hunger has packaged and shipped 3.5 million meals to hungry children.
"I don't know of anything more nutritious and economical," Bergeron said of the meals. "We are the largest consumer of rice from Costco in the area. We've used 100 tons since January."
In two hours a single volunteer can package enough food to feed one child for a year, at a cost of $10 a month.
Connie Watkins, a volunteer from Milford, was working in the factory for the second time Saturday, Sept. 18. She was serving as a team leader and she was very excited about the program.
"I love it because it's local, it's a great time, and it's cost effective," Watkins said.
Mayer said community organizations from around the Greater Cincinnati area often come together to volunteer and families will reserve the factory for birthday parties and reunions in the factory.
Bergeron said he was formerly a pastor in Mason and as he volunteered to serve foster children and hungry children around the world he began to see a desperate need.
"I worked with children as a church pastor but I decided that there is so much need that it would be better to focus on the problem full-time," Bergeron said.
He said there are 143 million orphans world wide and about 12,000 are adopted annually. The statistics that keeps organizations like Bergeron's working hard is that 30,000 children world wide die of starvation each day.
Kids Against Hunger does not accept funding from any branch of government and Bergeron works hard to maintain efficiency. The result is 93 cents of every dollar donated to Kids Against Hunger goes directly to the children. The meals supply enough nutrition to feed six children at a cost of 25 cents each.
Kids Against Hunger is the fifth largest satellite organization of A Child's Hope International. The recipe used in the meals was perfected by founder Richard Proudfit of New Hope, Minnesota and developed by food scientists from Cargill, Pillsbury, General Mills, and Archer Daniels Midland.
Mayer said that while the seasonings in the package are mild, they are often supplemented with local spices and sometimes meats when they are prepared.
The 39,000 square foot factory is located just off of state Route 28 behind the Dunkin Donuts. Volunteers can attend a half-hour training session and assemble meals for two hours every other Saturday, however some schedule changes occur and a complete schedule can be found at www.hungernomore.us. Or call the factory at (513) 248-4005. Monetary donations for purchase of supplies and shipping costs are also accepted.
In addition to providing food, A Child's Hope International also serves children through orphan care, foster care, adoption, and humanitarian relief.