Occasionally, the rallying cry goes forth when youngsters’ stomachs growl, “Mom, I’m starving!”

Columbus mom Laura Crossman laughs and offers her kids the standard answer.

“No, you’re not,” she says.

In fact, she knows her children, 13-year-old Samantha and 9-year-old Michael, understand well that they are hardly starving. They know in part because for the past four years they have worked alongside their parents, including their dad, Dave Crossman, and hundreds of other volunteers to pack dehydrated, nonperishable meals for malnourished children in dozens of poverty-stricken nations worldwide.

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Organizers of the effort, slated this year for Sept. 9 through 11 at Asbury United Methodist Church in Columbus, aim to recruit 250 more volunteers — for a total of 960 — to pack more than 200,000 meals for a Christian, nonprofit project called Feed My Starving Children.

The Minnesota-based, nonprofit Christian program ships meals to partnering agencies in 70 countries. The food will feed people in orphanages, clinics, missions and elsewhere.

Asbury members and those from as many as two dozen area churches plus other groups have packed 643,896 meals since 2012 — enough to feed 1,764 children for a year.

Volunteers, who can be as young as 5 years old, will work two-hour shifts to pack the meals, according to organizers. The massive teamwork is pinned to Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:35: “For I was hungry, and you gave me food.”

Dave Crossman loves the outlet for putting a practical spin on the gospel of serving others.

“As a family, I like the fact that the kids can do something concrete for others,” the father said. “For me, I have been blessed, and to give back is the very least I can do.”

To cover the $44,000 for the cost of the meals, organizers still need nearly $10,000, said Candy Spiker, one of the volunteer organizers. She has acknowledged several times in the past that Asbury leaders have been heartened by the community-wide support.

Monetary donations can be made at asburycolumbus.org.

Laura Crossman especially likes the idea that the volunteer stint has some built-in flexibility for her children.

“It keeps them pretty busy,” mom said. “And if they get tired of one task, they always can switch and do another.”

The Crossmans have enjoyed their two-hour effort so much that they normally share it with another local family, Brian and Fionna Alderfer, so their kids can have friends along. Youngsters especially are drawn to the work, the Crossmans said.

“Since it involves helping kids, that really appeals to kids,” Laura Crossman said.

Daughter Samantha Crossman now asks every year weeks before the packing if the family plans to volunteer again, her mother said. All of the Crossmans like the concept that the project makes fighting hunger a bit personal.

“We always wish we could do more. But this is one small thing we can do to help,” Laura Crossman said.

Plus, mom likes the concept of one other element at work with Feed My Starving Children.

“This,” she said, “gives our children the chance to realize just how good their life is.”

How you can help

What: Christian nonprofit Feed My Starving Children mobile meal-packing event.

When: Various times, Sept. 9-11.

Where: Asbury United Methodist Church, 1751 27th St. in Columbus.

To help: Volunteers sign up for two-hour shifts to pack the nonperishable, dehydrated meals into sealed, plastic bags. Go to asburycolumbus.org and click on Feed My Starving Children Mobile Pack.

Information: 812-372-4555 or asburycolumbus.org, where donations also can be made.

Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.