Not only government agencies help poor people during the winter season. Feed the Hungry, an international organization, has had an office in San Miguel for almost 12 years.
Headed by Mary Murrell, Feed the Hungry is located at the corner of 5 de Mayo and Moras, opposite Fuego Nuevo School. The organization has established 27 kitchens in schools in rural communities and poor urban neighborhoods.
“The mission of Feed the Hungry San Miguel is to provide a nutritious, hot meal every school day to hungry preschool and elementary school children in the San Miguel area,” said Murrell. Every Saturday, 11 volunteers meet at Feed the Hungry facilities to select and pack dry meals for the 27 kitchens around San Miguel. Currently, Feed the Hungry has a warehouse where rice, sugar, beans and many dry meals are stored.
The packages containing meals are delivered on Tuesdays by 25 volunteer drivers, who also buy fresh vegetables and fruit to take to their respective kitchens. “Each driver loves his or her kitchen, and the children in the communities receive them with smiles on their faces, helping the drivers unload the food from the car,” said Murrell with great satisfaction. “The drivers travel to their communities in their own cars using their own resources. Every Tuesday they leave San Miguel at 8:30am, arriving in their communities by 9 or 9:30. The breakfasts are served each day between 10 and 11am.” Murrell explained that there are 14 backup drivers and 18 substitute drivers in case any of the 25 regulars cannot go for any reason. “We only ask our volunteers to be very responsible and very serious in this mission,” said Murrell.
Feed the Hungry usually works in communities where DIF has no presence. Murrell and her assistant, Olivia Muñiz Rodríguez, work hard traveling all around the area to identify eligible communities. “In selecting a community, we consider the number of school-age children. We need at least 100 children, since building the kitchen costs us US$10,000. We also consider how the children look—whether they appear to suffer from malnutrition—and the condition of their clothes,” explained Murrell.
All the kitchens are on school property, so Murrell has to ask the school principal for permission to build a kitchen. “There are some principals or teachers who do not want to accept our kitchen because some teachers or parents sell food to the children, but usually we convince them of the benefits of our kitchens,” said Murrell.
Feed the Hungry provides jobs for 40 women who run the kitchens “We teach them how to cook, and we continuously supervise that the meals are properly prepared. We also have nutritionists who design the menus,” explained Murrell. Feed the Hungry menus vary according to the season of the year. “For example, during the summer we give the children jamaica water, and in winter we give them atole or another hot drink,” said Murrell. “Children usually do not like vegetables, but we prepare them with special recipes so that they like them.”
Feed the Hungry’s funding comes solely from donations or fund-raising events. “We have supporters that have even adopted a kitchen, and they pay for all of its expenses,” explained Murrell. Among the 27 kitchens run by Feed the Hungry, seven are beneficiary kitchens. “These kitchens work by themselves—they have their own cooks; we only provide the food. Two examples are ALMA and Centro de Crecimiento,” said Muñiz Rodríguez.
Currently 3,000 children benefit from Feed the Hungry. “This year we opened three new kitchens: La Campana and Estancia de San Antonio in San Miguel and Misión de Chichimecas in San Luis de la Paz. The latter is a very poor community, where children still speak the Chichimecan language,” said Murrell.
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