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28 Sep 2017 | Under double your dating | Posted by | 0 Comments

“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” – Matt. 25:40, ESV

This verse is not only a source of inspiration; it guides our lives on a personal and spiritual level. We were recently blessed with the opportunity to organize and execute BERAKA Ministries’ first annual Meals for a Million food packing event. The goal of Meals for a Million is exactly as it sounds. The philanthropic mission of this event is to provide one million packaged, nonperishable meals to those in need in the St. Louis community and around the world.

IMG_0521The Journey to Meals for a Million

Some time ago, we began working with a food packing organization that sent meals to Nicaragua. It was great to help the hungry men, women, and children of Nicaragua, but we soon realized hunger is a problem right here in our community. We knew then that we found our mission. We needed to help the hungry in St. Louis as well as those in need around the world.

We began our mission by replicating the procedures we used to send meals to Nicaragua to distribute food right here in St. Louis. We quickly found a major flaw with this approach. The types of meals we were sending overseas were not palatable to people that are used to American culinary customs. We learned from this experience and quickly changed our meals to better reflect American tastes.

We partnered with Outreach Program who hired a nutritionist to review the meal composition. Outreach Program developed meals like oatmeal and apples, macaroni and cheese, minestrone soup, tomato basil pasta, along with rice and beans. They helped us understand the meals we delivered were sometimes the only source of nutrition for many of the meal recipients. We knew we needed a way to help those we support better meet their nutritional needs. The Outreach Program nutritionist worked to fortify our meals to where one meal would provide 100% of the required daily values of many vitamins and nutrients.

As our food packing expertise increased, we needed to take it to the next level. A group of us at BERAKA Ministries came up with the idea to try and provide a million meals to those in need locally and internationally. This led to the birth of Meals for a Million. This year’s Meals for a Million was an inaugural event. It is a great point of pride for us that the first Meals for a Million event took place four months after the idea’s conception. Our team was diligent, driven, and dedicated to bettering the lives of the hungry in St. Louis and throughout the world.

Most nonprofit organizations have the same goal: to help as many people as possible with the funds available. We developed a process that allows us to produce a meal for $0.15. Our economical approach to meal packing allows us to feed as many people as possible.


How Does Food Packing Work

Food packing works exactly as it sounds. Groups of volunteers prepare and package meals. Typically, the process is executed in a similar manner to putting together a product on an assembly line. Each person is responsible for packaging a specific part of each meal. The meals are then weighed to make sure each package contains the proper amount of food. The process is overseen by a representative of the Department of Health. The representative inspects and certifies each box of meals to make sure the contents meet required standards.

Hunger Does Not Discriminate

Those of us fortunate enough to not worry about where our next meal is coming from may often fall into the trap of thinking hunger is only a problem in developing countries. Unfortunately, that is simply not true. In the United States, hunger is a problem approaching crisis status. America is not the land of plenty for everyone. More than 42 million Americans do not have enough to eat. The amount of people considered to be ‘food insecure’ in America has risen more than 30% between 2007 and 2015. Food insecure is defined as: lacking reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

Hunger and School Performance

As startling as the numbers above are, hunger is even more of a problem in households with children. About 23% of households with children struggle with hunger. Children who are hungry are prone to lower math scores, more likely to have to repeat a grade in school, and more likely to have problems with tardiness than students who do not have to worry about having enough to eat. Children from food insecure households also tend to deal with increased occurrences of mental issues, such as aggression and depression. Studies also indicate students who do not have enough to eat may not perform as well in social situations. Recent studies suggest children who participate in food assistance programs, such as food packing events or food stamps, perform better academically than students who are food insecure but do not receive any sort of food assistance.

FullSizeRenderMeal packing programs have unique benefits for children. These benefits extend beyond the fact that children are more likely to be food insecure than adults. Many of us have heard about programs where children in need are given backpacks filled with canned goods. The spirit of this idea is truly wonderful. However, the flaw arises in the execution. A backpack filled with canned goods can often be too cumbersome or heavy for a young child to carry. Meal packing programs allow children to get the nutrition they need without having to worry about carrying a heavy and possibly awkward bag of canned goods.

Hunger and Health

Those who are food insecure may have more to worry about than just empty stomachs. Many studies link hunger to a variety of chronic health conditions. Obesity and diabetes are health issues that oftentimes go hand in hand with not having enough to eat. It may seem counterintuitive that there is a link between obesity and living in a food insecure environment. However, a closer inspection of the correlation reveals there is no great mystery as to why these two circumstances are connected.

Individuals and families who live in households where food is in short supply typically have difficulty accessing nutritious food. In these situations calorie-dense foods with little or no nutritional value are often the cheapest and most easily accessible food options. Diabetes can be caused by being overweight, not eating at regular intervals, and a continually poor diet. Food insecurity is a substantial contributing factor to America’s obesity epidemic and our nation’s rising healthcare costs. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine claims that food insecurity leads to illnesses that cost our healthcare system approximately $130.5 billion.

2017090795070734951504789660555What Participants Get Out of Meals for a Million

In today’s world, many of us feel like there’s just not enough time in the day. We would love to volunteer for causes near and dear to our hearts, but we just don’t have the time. As counterintuitive as it may seem, volunteering could be the key to finding that extra time in your day. Volunteering often makes people feel more productive and accomplished. Feeling more productive can make you feel you have more available time. This in turn may help increase your level of productivity.

When you go out in public, it’s almost the norm to see people with their heads buried in their phones. Talking or interacting with the person next to them is the furthest thing from their mind. Humans are naturally social creatures; we have a fundamental need for social interaction and connection. However, in today’s digital age, the need for interaction and connection often gets overlooked. Both those in need and volunteers benefit from the social interaction and opportunities for connection that go hand in hand with volunteering. Volunteering can also help to foster a sense of belonging, purpose, and well-being. Regularly serving others may reduce your risk of depression later in life. Participating in service activities may also increase our general ability to successfully function in many different situations.

The positive effects of serving others extend beyond social and mental well-being. Serving others can improve our physical health as well. There is a strong correlation between participating in service-based activities and an increased lifespan. Research also indicates regularly volunteering may lower your risk of heart disease. Multiple studies show those who give their time as a volunteer receive a greater health benefit from volunteering than the recipients of their services.

2017090795064904951504789662769More Than a Million Meals

At R&A Contracting it’s about more than giving back. We believe in helping when we can. We are all in this crazy thing called life together. If we all take advantage of opportunities to improve life for our brothers and sisters, the world will truly be a better place and life will be more enjoyable for each of us.

In addition to Meals for a Million, we also support our friends and neighbors in our community with home renovations. A lady in our community lived in a home with a porch in need of repair. Municipal officials notified her that until the repairs were made she would not be able to stay in her home. The situation was further complicated because the homeowner was blind and had no way to orchestrate the repairs herself. When we became aware of her predicament, we volunteered to help her make the necessary repairs so she could once again live safely and comfortably in her home.

A young lady in our community became suddenly ill. She contracted an ailment that impaired her physical abilities. As a result of the illness she was reliant on a wheelchair for her mobility. Her home was complicating the already difficult task of adjusting to a new life with a completely new set of challenges. The house was not conducive to using a wheelchair to get around on a daily basis. We were able to provide her with ramps, wider doors, and other home modifications to allow her to live in her home with more freedom and independence.

meals-for-a-million-HRResponding to Recent Events

We have joined forces with Ferguson Loves Houston. Together we are working to deliver meals to those in Houston affected by Hurricane Harvey. With the support of the mayor of Houston, local police, and area chaplains, we have been able to deliver more than 166,320 meals.

We were truly blessed with these opportunities to use our skills and talents to improve the quality of life for those in our community as well as individuals around the world. These opportunities were fantastic reminders of how important and rewarding it is to help others when the opportunity arises. When we work together to improve the lives of those around us we all benefit from a better world.

We would be remiss if we didn’t take this opportunity to express our deep gratitude for each and every person who volunteered alongside of us or helped to support our outreach efforts. It’s an honor and a privilege to serve our neighbors, community and country with you. We appreciate the time and energy you have sacrificed to better the lives of others. We hope you have received as much fulfillment enjoy from these activities as we have. Thank you for your continued support.

I’d be an idiot if I did not take this opportunity to communicate to you how much we appreciate the way in which you conduct business and take care of our facility. In my experience you, and your team, are at the top of the list of all the roofing companies I’ve dealt with over the years. Thank you!

Jim Lowry - Bissinger's Handcrafted Chocolatier

Eric and crew were really nice to have around. They were courteous, careful and caused little if any disruption. Their work looks good too! To be honest… a good experience with a product that I initially had misgivings about. I’m a convert because of Bubba, Sam and Eric. Thank you.

Jim Lowry - Bissinger's Handcrafted Chocolatier

“I want to thank the crew at R&A for a job well done on our very leaky roof at the shop. It is certainly nice to have the drips and rivers gone from the shop when it is raining. I also wanted you to know how much we appreciated that the guys were able to stay out of our way and allowed us to do business as usual without any problems or interruptions. The roof looks great and the clean-up after the job made it so we couldn’t even tell you’d been here. Thanks for doing what you do so well!”

Jay Moore, President of Safe Way Tire and Auto Center

“My wife and I were on vacation when water pipes burst in our house. We got a hold of Craig and the R&A crew was able to start evacuating the water immediately. The best part was that they were able to start work before we even returned home. It was a very fast turnaround considering the extensive amount of water damage.”

Will from Dardenne Prairie, MO

“Craig and Mike came out in a timely fashion when we needed the work done. They did a reliable and quality job.”

Jerry from SLR Properties

“Craig helped us out tremendously with the insurance process. Timely and very professional.”

Lindell from Greater Missouri Builders (GMB)

“We purchased a house and there was some damage to the roof. Very impressed with the thoroughness of Mike’s inspection. Very comfortable with their explanation of what needed to be fixed. Most impressive was the way they protected our landscaping. Really liked the way they treated me as a valued customer, even though it was only a small project.”

Ross from Troy, MO

“I use R&A Contracting when my commercial roofs receive storm damage. They work on our behalf through every step of the insurance claim process. They perform all of the work and complete the insurance process, making our roofs better than they were before the storm.”

Director of Facilities for a large Property Management Company

“The team at R & A Contracting responded immediately when notified of our water disaster. They removed water-damaged materials and property quickly and restored our home even before the final settlement from our insurance company. They minimized how long our family had to live in a hotel and got us back to normal as fast as possible.”

Will from O'Fallon, MO