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Mike and Pam Beard pack meals to send to Haiti. A community packaging will be held for Kids Against Hunger For the Love of Haiti beginning at 10 a.m. Feb. 27 at the Boys & Girls Club of the Bemidji Area. Boys & Girls Club employees who will host the event - Karl Mork and Andrea Ohnstad - hold the club banner. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Kids Against Hunger: Organizations help people in Haiti

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As the misery in Haiti mounts - thousands killed, thousands injured, thousands homeless and hungry - grappling with the unimaginable toll is difficult.

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While many would like to help, the numbers in need make it hard to know where to start, said Pam Beard of Bemidji, who with her husband, Mike, organized a chapter of Kids Against Hunger in 2003 when they lived in St. Cloud.

After the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami devastated Indonesia, Bemidji's Kids Against Hunger packed up meals to sustain people in that country. Now, Kids Against Hunger will reach out with food aid to the people of Haiti.

The For the Love of Haiti packaging event will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, at the Boys & Girls Club of the Bemidji Area, 1600 Minnesota Ave. N.W. The effort is seeking 200 volunteers for three 90-minute shifts (10-11:30 a.m., noon-1:30 p.m. and 2-3:30 p.m.) and donations to make up the $22,000 needed to purchase the 150,000 meals.

Donations are being accepted at First National Bank Bemidji and at the www.givemn.org by searching "Kids Against Hunger of Central MN For the Love of Haiti." All donations made before March 1 are deductible from 2009 income tax.

Volunteers may sign up by calling the United Way of the Bemidji Area at 444-8929. Further information is also available at www.liveunitedbemidji.org.

Each bag of fortified rice-soy chicken flavored casserole costs about 75 cents and can feed a family of six for a day. The formula was developed by food scientists at Pillsbury, Archer Daniels Midland and General Mills to provide complete nutrition. The mixture, which contains dried vegetable, as well as vitamins and protein, must be mixed with water and cooked for at least 20 minutes. The cooking will sterilize unsafe water, which is common in disaster zones.

"It was fun the last time we did it for the tsunami," said Mike Beard.

He added that the mixture is acceptable to people all over the world, because people everywhere know how to cook rice and enjoy it as part of their diet. Volunteers on Feb. 27 will also have the opportunity to sample the food, some of which will be cooked at the Boys & Girls Club during the shifts.

"At each event, we like to have people taste what they're packing," Pam Beard said.

Mike and Pam Beard explained that Kids Against Hunger has a regular presence in Haiti through Lifeline Christian Mission and other organizations. So, people were receiving food aid immediately, but more is needed. Kids Against Hunger is a 501c3 nonprofit humanitarian aid organization that also can take advantage of free shipping of food through the United States government.

"So we know it's going to get there," Pam Beard said.

"That's real important - the connections have been established pre-earthquake," Mike Beard said.

Pam Beard said she knows the food aid won't solve all of Haiti's problems, but it's a short-term solution to immediate needs.

"We partner with organizations working toward sustainable programs," she said.

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