Sarah (left), 7, and Lauren Meehl, 11, at the Tempe packing site in December.

Often, when my kids are squabbling over who gets a turn on the iPad, I have one of those mama moments. You know, where I am compelled to point out their bounty — how blessed we are to even own such a luxury. I’m always in search of those “teachable moments,” to inspire in them an attitude of gratitude. So parents, if you’re sighing, “I can relate —” I come bearing good news. There is no better place to experience one of those moments than a little warehouse at Warner Road and Priest Drive — Feed My Starving Children (FMSC).

Many of you have already been introduced to FMSC, this unique and spirit-led organization that feeds children hungry in body and soul across the globe. Kids as young as 5 years old are encouraged to volunteer (how cool is that?), and I have it on good authority that there are plenty of available spaces to pack in August.

For those of you who haven’t yet discovered this little gem right here in our backyard, FMSC is a Christian organization by mission, but welcomes everyone and anyone who wants to touch children living in poverty. Turns out, Valley churches did such an amazing job during “mobile pack” sessions, FMSC set up a shop at a permanent site at Warner Road and Priest Drive in Tempe. In Arizona, we rock (pun intended) at feeding kids.

Packing as a family has become a tradition of sorts, because taking action always trumps the many things I might try to teach my kids during, say, their latest round of sibling warfare. Taking time away from our own lives to pack food for others transmits a powerful message about generosity — and how down right good it feels to give to others. The fact that it’s also fun — a lot of fun — well, that’s just icing on the cake. 

If you’ve heard about FMSC, read about it, and always wanted to try it — or haven’t been back in awhile — well, now’s the time to sign up. Ready? Set? Go to the website, right after you read the rest of the story.

“Vitamins! Veggies! Soy! Rice!” Say it with me, now…

Walk into an average packing session at FMSC and the first thing you notice is the thundering music. Well, that, and the stylish white hairnets. But it has the same effect as a Diamondbacks jersey — in here, everyone’s cheering for Team FMSC (And yes — if you have a beard, you’re going to wear one over that, too. It’s critical to keep that precious food free of germs — it’s traveling a long way).

Back to the music. Carefully chosen to inspire pumped-up camaraderie, people ages 5 to 75 are jamming to old-school hits by the likes of Van Halen and K.C. and the Sunshine Band. Feverishly working in assembly line units, each team works in friendly competition, filling “Manna packs.” These bags contain a combination of dried goods designed to reverse the ravages of malnutrition. For fun, teams create cheers to chant while packing: “Vitamins! Veggies! Soy! Rice! Feeding kids is really NICE!”

Before and after each packing session, FMSC shares videos and pictures of children in faraway places, like Cambodia or Haiti, whose lives were saved by those nourishing ingredients. Volunteers are also invited to make a donation to pay for the materials just packed — and you won’t find a better return on investment. Each bag provides nutritious meals for six children and costs around $1.32 to produce. With a four-star Charity Navigator rating, 92 percent of all donations are directed toward feeding children.

Of course, food is just part of what impoverished children and families receive when they tear open a food box distributed by local FMSC partners. Inside the containers, assembled with enthusiasm, sent with love, and marked by prayer, families hungry in body and spirit find the real bread of life. The one that truly feeds our deepest need to be loved, and valued. And empowering kids to fill those bags with life-saving food helps them to recognize their own blessings, and take joy in sharing them. So parents, keep calm this summer, and sign up to pack some meals.

To volunteer, visit; click “Volunteer Registration,” and choose “Tempe.” Have fun!

• Longtime Ahwatukee resident, Diane Meehl, is a writer, volunteer and mother of three.

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