A view from Glen Hill: Working together to defeat hunger

If you saw a starving child, would you do something? But if the child is far away and I’m just one person — what can I do, and what difference would it make anyway?

There is something we can do — and do, in fact, right here in Wilton — that makes a huge difference in the lives of 300 otherwise starving children each year.

The Wilton Interfaith Action Committee’s (Wi-ACT’s) Stop-Hunger-Now meal packaging event packaged 115,000 highly nutritious meals this past October, mixing together bulk ingredients into pouches that were hermetically sealed, boxed, and shipped to where most needed. With three years of experience and almost 300,000 meals now under its belt, Wi-ACT has its meal-packaging well in hand. The meals are distributed through the highly rated nonsectarian 501(c)(3) nonprofit Stop Hunger Now Inc. and feed more than 300 children for an entire year at the 115,000-meal level. That feeding takes place in educational settings in the poorest countries in the world where their young recipients are nourished in mind as well as in body.

The experience of being part of the meal-packaging event is so uplifting — and also so joyously lively, with 600 volunteers from seven-year-olds to 90+-year-olds, working together in two-hour shifts of 150 each throughout the day — that Wi-ACT wants to raise the goal for its number of meals packaged for the third year in a row, finally reaching this Oct. 25 the full capacity of its meal-packaging facility for a one-day event: 150,000 meals. It has enough volunteers to do that. The sole remaining constraint is finances.

The 10 Wilton faith institutions — Christian, Jewish and Muslim — whose congregations supply those 600 volunteers also contribute financial resources to Wi-ACT, over $25,000 this past year, to pay for the ingredients. Their contributions are augmented by the proceeds of this benefit concert. Going to full capacity of 150,000 meals means an increase of 35,000 meals, which in turn means 95 more children fed for a year (400 in total). At ingredients’ cost of 25 cents per meal, that means raising an additional almost $9,000. Wi-ACT is looking to its second annual benefit concert to do that.

The concert is on April 6 at 4, at the church complex at 36 New Canaan Road. Last year’s concert raised slightly over $2,000 but that was without the benefit of advanced ticket sales ($15 each, equal to 60 meals) or corporate sponsors, both of which are now an important part of the fund raising flowing from this concert. Tickets may be purchased at https://www.charityauctionorganizer.com/auction/ WiAct2014; and those wishing to be corporate sponsors should call Pam Ely (203-762-1238).

Wi-ACT has been fortunate in securing the services of the remarkable lyric soprano Anna Rita Tornello, who is also one of our Wilton police officers, and the highly accomplished concert pianist and Wilton resident Erica vanderLinde Feidner, who have again generously volunteered their talents.

Starvation is not a matter of lack of food production — the world has enough. In fact, the most grinding poverty has been reduced by half in the last 30 years. But that still leaves 800 million, millions of them children, facing serious chronic hunger.

Substantially reducing that number is achievable with focus, direction, and intentionality. Stop Hunger Now Inc. has said that Wilton’s 10-faith-institution effort is unique and offers a compelling example of what other communities can accomplish.

And meal-packaging is not Wi-ACT’s only work. Wi-ACT also addresses local hunger needs, with its volunteers bringing to the meal-packaging event large amounts of non-perishable items for local food pantries. In addition, it supports the cystic fibrosis work of Wi-ACT’s Steering Committee member Dr. Hossein Sadeghi, who is a nationally recognized pediatric pulmonologist on the faculty of Columbia Medical School. Wi-ACT members provide housing, meals, and transportation for the treatment of CF patients from overseas in Dr. Sadeghi’s Stamford clinic. These patients’ life expectancy would be severely compromised without the two weeks of intensive clinical treatment this program provides. The patient returns home with maintenance pharmaceuticals provided through manufacturer donations.

Dr. Sadeghi volunteers his services for this work, and Wi-ACT’s provision of in-kind support assures that his overseas patients have the accommodations they need here without charge. The father of a patient treated in January expressed how deeply moved he and his son were by the love and support they experienced here in Wilton. And indeed such radical hospitality to those in need, wherever they may be, is the centerpiece of Wi-ACT’s work to live out its motto, “We act together for good.”

Mr. Hudspeth lives on Glen Hill Road.