When the co-organizer of a feed-the-hungry effort sits down to a simple meal, thoughts of how fortunate she is sometimes hit her.

The convenience of pulling something from the fridge or pantry. The gratitude of having the wherewithal to have so many eating choices at her fingertips.

Samantha Steele understands all that maybe better than ever before.

“Absolutely,” Steele said. “There definitely are times now when I consciously think, ‘I don’t ever have to worry about where my food is coming from.’”

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The topic surfaces because Steele is co-chair with Carrie Riley of the Sixth Annual Feed My Starving Children meal-packing event Sept. 8 to 10 at Asbury United Methodist Church, 1751 27th St. in Columbus. The gathering uses nearly 1,000 volunteers each year from throughout Bartholomew County to pack nearly 200,000 dehydrated, nutritious meals for malnourished children in poor countries.

Often in the past, entire families have volunteered and served together on a shift.

Also at previous events, locally-packed meals have been shipped to countries such as Haiti, Nicaragua, Zimbabwe and Ghana.

Helpers have come from dozens of other churches and also service clubs and other organizations, plus altruistic individuals. And Steele, Riley and other coordinators currently are seeking more helping hands for two-hour shifts for this year’s event.

The upcoming event is especially significant since expectations are that volunteers’ efforts will put the local project over the 1 million meal mark for its six years of existence. That doesn’t count other, smaller-but-still-significant meal-packing efforts at other local churches such as The Ridge and Sandy Hook Church in recent years.

In fact, Sandy Hook’s meal packing unfolds today and Sunday and still could use helpers, too (see box).

“If more kids are being fed (with more churches involved), that’s always a good thing,” said Melissa Begley, who is coordinating publicity for Asbury’s effort.

The meals are powdered and vitamin-enhanced — and prepared later and easily with boiling water.

For those who cannot donate their time, know that monetary donations can help, too, since the meals cost 22 cents each. At press time, organizers had raised slightly less than half of the cash needed to pay for the meals, according to the Feed My Starving Children website.

Begley indicated that more than 90 percent of donations to the Christian ministry of Feed My Starving Children go directly to the cause of the meals. National watchdog and rating organizations such as charitynavigator.com generally consider that percentage to indicate a high level of financial trustworthiness.

“That’s really part of the point of these kinds of events,” Begley said. “You can really feel that you are making a serious impact.”

Steele agreed. When she was a Columbus North High School senior, she became aware of world poverty especially after visiting former Columbus resident Juana Watson’s hometown village of Calnali, Mexico, on a spring break trip.

“Now, with this (meal packing), it’s nice to be able to do something practical about the poverty,” Steele said. “I never before have felt so empowered.”

How you can help

What: Meal-packing events for the Minnesota-based Christian ministry Feed My Starving Children are scheduled today and Sunday at Sandy Hook Church, 1610 Taylor Road, and Sept. 8-10 Asbury United Methodist Church, 1751 17th St., both in Columbus.

Why: To help feed children one meal per day for one year in a range of impoverished nations.

How to volunteer or give money: sandyhook.org or the Asbury UMC Columbus Indiana Facebook page.

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