The call is out for donations of canned food and volunteers to sign up for the local “Million Meal Marathon” on Sunday, April 22.
Faith-based groups in the Santa Clarita Valley will join forces with counterparts throughout the nation to pack healthy, non-perishable meals for malnourished children overseas, and to stock local food pantries to feed hungry kids here at home.
Nineteen local churches will participate (including three that signed on after the graphic was created), most during their regular service times on Sunday morning, contributing to the national goal of 1,000,000 non-perishable meals prepared during the event.
Two hours of volunteer work will help feed a child for a year, according to organizers Children of the Nations, a registered 501(c)3 Christian charity whose mission is to help children in Africa and the Caribbean by raising children out of poverty.
“Through year-round meal packaging opportunities and annual events such as our Meal Marathons , Children of the Nations staff works with local schools, organizations, and churches to mobilize groups of people interested in providing food for orphans and destitute children around the world,” reads the organization’s website.
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Santa Clarita Valley churches participating in this year's Million Meal Marathon are Bouquet Canyon Church , Christ Lutheran Church , Desert Streams , Faith Community Church , Grace Baptist Church , Heart of the Canyons , Higher Vision , His Way Community Church , Living Grace Christian Fellowship , NorthPark Community Church , Real Life Church , Royal Oaks Church , Santa Clarita Church of Christ , Santa Clarita United Methodist Church , South Valley Church , The Church On The Way , The Sanctuary , Valencia Hills Community Church  and Valencia United Methodist Church . Bouquet Canyon Church is holding its event this Sunday, but all others are set for April 22.
Each church is calling for donations of non-perishable food (see list below), and volunteers to sign up now for the April 22 packing event, which will take place at different times at the locations. Click a church link for contact info, drop-off locations for the canned food, and volunteer opportunities.
As it did last year, Real Life Church in Valencia, which has three 90-minute packaging sessions set for that Sunday morning, is also serving as the central collection and shipping location.
"Last year we packaged a million meals that went overseas through our partner organization Children of the Nations, and this year we set a goal to still do a million meals, but in two ways," said Scott Harland, Real Life's director of outreach.
"One way is we’re doing 500,000 meals again through Children of the Nations," Harland said. "Those are a complex little meal kit that has rice, lentils, some spice, and then some chicken powder or chicken flavored protein powder that can be made into a soup or a stew. Those meals this year are getting spread through Sierra Leone and the Dominican Republic.
"And then all the churches are collecting 500,000 cans of food, which are going to local food banks through Help the Children SCV and the SCV Food Pantry," he said. "We’re accepting canned goods at all the different drop-off locations at each church up through April 22, and people can bring cans that day, drop them off and then help us sort them."
All the meals packaged and cans collected at each of the individual churches will then be taken to Real Life Church, Harland said. "We’ll have all the shipping containers here on our property and we’ll load the stuff into those containers." There will also be trucks provided by Help the Children SCV to store and ship the canned food to the SCV Food Pantry or to a storage facility for future deployment.
Volunteers who would like to be team leaders at Real Life are invited to email their name and phone number to organizers at email@example.com .
"It's more about the unity of the churches, not how much each church is doing," said Harland, who estimates about 4,000 volunteers will participate this year, about 1,500 more than last. "The biggest thing for us is we just want to make a difference. There are hungry people around the world, and there are hungry people in our neighborhood, our friends and our neighbors, especially with the economic times as hard as they are.
"We know that (with) our church and the other churches combined we can definitely go a long way in easing hunger, and not just here in our Santa Clarita Valley, but in other countries as well through this operation," he said. "It’s just a great, easy, simple way to give back, and it's a ton of fun."
"We're building a mountain of cans here," said Steve Whitney, Real Life's director of ministry.
Canned Foods Donations List
* Peanut Butter & Jelly (plastic jars)
* Canned Potatoes
* Canned Vegetables
* Canned Meat
* Canned Soup
* Canned Beans
* Canned Fruit
* Canned Tuna
* Canned Pasta Sauce
* Canned Chili
* Canned Broth
* Canned Stew
* Canned Tomatoes
* Mac & Cheese