Hairnets and helping hands

Minnkota hosts third Feed My Starving Children event at its Grand Forks headquarters.


Emily Windjue


April 19, 2023

As students from Riverside Christian School piled into Minnkota’s headquarters on a windy Friday morning, they quickly put on their hairnets and began a familiar routine. When asked how many had ever volunteered at a Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) packing event before, nearly every hand shot into the air with electric enthusiasm.

A young volunteer scoops her portion of the ingredients into one of 36 MannaPacks needed to fill a single box at her packing station.

“The Feed My Starving Children event is not a day where we struggle to find volunteers to come,” smiled Cindy Waind, a principal at Grand Forks-based Riverside Christian School. She and her students have been attending FMSC mobile packs since 2011 when Jodie Storhaug and her husband Bruce organized the first event in Grand Forks. Jodie, having volunteered at an FMSC permanent packing site in 2009, saw the difference one person could make with just a few hours of their time.

“There is nothing like seeing the event come together,” said Storhaug. “We just visualize it as God working in people’s hands and through everyone who makes it successful. It highlights the goodness of our community.

Smiles and laughter were present throughout the entire packing process. Upbeat music and silly dance moves contributed to this young helper’s contagious smile.

FMSC is a nonprofit based out of Minnesota. Representatives from the organization travel coast to coast helping local hosts and communities pack bags full of vitamins, veggies, soy and rice – or MannaPacks – for the millions of people who struggle every day with hunger. The bags are then sent to their 200 partner organizations in over 70 different countries around the world.

Kristen Howard, an assistant manager at FMSC, has made the trek to Minnkota before. She assisted the Storhaugs during their 2022 mobile pack event. After Howard’s experience with the community and the amazing hosts in Grand Forks, she requested to come back for this year’s event.

“It’s enticing to come back to the feeling of community Grand Forks has,” Howard said as cheers from the packers behind her erupted. “You maybe don’t think of Grand Forks, North Dakota, as the most exciting place to travel, but for me it’s about experiencing communities and experiencing hosts that have a passion for feeding kids, and Jodie and Bruce have that.”

Volunteers ranged from five years old to 85 years old – with the perfect job available for every ability.
A community-first cooperative

The sense of community Jodie and Bruce have inspired is what makes this event such a success each year. Students, realtors, 4-H members, local businesses and other community members all gathered around the various packing stations and worked together in the fight against hunger. This year, volunteers packed an entire semi-truck full of food – around 270,000 bags. And after all these years as a host, Jodie still finds herself holding back tears of joy while watching her community bring this event to life.

“It’s a very strong faith-led thing for me,” she said. “As long as I feel a prompting in my heart from God, Bruce and I will continue to do it.”

As a cooperative, showing concern for community is one of Minnkota’s core values. So, when Minnkota was approached in 2019 about using its facilities to host the local FMSC crew, the employees grabbed their hairnets, cleared space in the conference center and vehicle garage, and got to work. The relationship with this inspirational organization has continued to grow with each passing year.

“It’s fun to see the same people coming back year after year. It’s like an old friend you haven’t seen in a year,” explained Dave Whalen, Minnkota’s facilities manager who works closely with FMSC organizers. “I’m in the warehouse most of the time during these events and the music is blaring and the people are dancing. It’s such a light-hearted and inspiring event.”

Hundreds of community members gather around packing stations to scoop the correct amount of ingredients into the MannaPacks.


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