LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Global hunger took another hit by Luke Air Force Base servicemembers and their families April 13 as they worked alongside community organizations to build "Food for Kidz" boxes. Approximately 165 volunteers from Luke AFB spent about six hours packaging 105,000 meals, which will be sent to Afghanistan to feed hungry children. The event was headed by Grace Bible Fellowship Church in Sun City and fueled by servicemembers and their families.
Retired Lt. Gen. John Bradley, former Air Force Reserve Command commander, requested the church to donate time, resources and efforts to the Lamia Afghan Foundation. The nonprofit foundation was founded by Bradley and his wife and was inspired by an experience he had in Afghanistan when a little 9-year old girl named Lamia begged him for his boots. "This food packing event is going to be a lot of help to a lot of families," Bradley said. "We've sent food from "Food for Kidz" many times in the past, and they have always been very generous. I also want to thank the Airmen and their families for coming here today to help with this food packing event. It shows each has a good heart for people in need, and there are people in need all over the world, especially in Afghanistan."
The meals will be distributed to refugee camps and orphanages in Afghanistan by the Lamia foundation, whose mission it is to help the children and disadvantaged people of Afghanistan by providing humanitarian aid, educational opportunities and vocational training that will provide the next generation of Afghans with opportunities unavailable to their parents.
Capt. Kenya Gray, 56th Fighter Wing Chapel, was the project officer who directed and coordinated this year's event. "The Air Force is great, the best people to ever work for because they will step up and have your back, and that's what all I'm about, people having each other's back," Gray said.
Mary Baumgartem, "Food for Kidz" of Minnesota vice chairman, along with her grandson, donated their time and provided insight into what the meals should consist of and the cost.
"Food for Kidz" mission is to provide the opportunity to anyone to package a specially designed, fully nutritious meal, and to distribute this packet of food to hungry children and their families wherever crisis has struck and there is an immediate need, she said. The boxes contain rice, soy flour, dehydrated vegetables, vegan protein powder and spices which are sealed in industrial-grade plastic bags and have a shelf life of seven years. The cost per meal is 15 cents and there are 36 bags in a box. Each bag is able to feed six people, therefore one box costing $32.40 can feed a child for seven months.
"I volunteer because I wanted to find something that I could do to help other people," said Baumgartem, who's been with "Food for Kidz" 10 years. I thought I'd be busy one night a week, within a 50-mile radius, and it has turned into a wonderful fulltime job."
Karl Main, who has coordinated the event the last two years, is a military missionary with Cadence International and a member of Grace Bible Fellowship Church. He's been serving the Luke community for nearly 14 years.
"We do this to help Airmen. Men and women have expressed a desire to give of themselves and their time to help needy people around the world," he said.
The humanitarian project was a base-wide event bringing Airmen together from every group and affiliation of the 944th Fighter Wing as well as the 56th FW, according to organizers. "I decided to volunteer for this event because I have a soft spot for children and hungry babies make me want to help," said Senior Airman Leslie Eccles, 56th Operations Support Squadron. "It's good to see how we are trying to help over there."