MAYES COUNTY, Okla. - Hundreds of Mayes County volunteers attended church Sunday, but it was for a different kind of service. In just three and a half hours, 200 people prepared and packaged more than 60,000 meals to feed the hungry.
The massive meal-making marathon was part of the county's hunger challenge, directed by Steve Sawyer.
"The statistics are 40 percent up for food assistance programs around the county and around Oklahoma," Sawyer said.
Mayes County will receive half of the meals prepared at Exciting Southeast Baptist Church. The remaining 30,000 meals, chosen by the church, will be sent to feed the hungry in Haiti.
According to Sawyer, 16 percent of Mayes County residents live below the poverty line. He said these meals will go a long way to feeding the county's children, who often go hungry on weekends because they rely on meals prepared at school.
One of the 200 volunteers, Jennifer Hokit, works in the Chouteau-Mazie Public Schools. Hokit said she sees the need daily.
"There's a very big need for families, you know, to have the food that's sufficient to keep them healthy and we see that a lot," she said.
Each packet prepared by the volunteers contains six meals. The packets consist of dehydrated vegetables, 21 vitamins and minerals, soy for protein and white rice. Added to boiling water, a meal is created.
Marshall Horn, CEO of Tulsa's chapter of Kids Against Hunger, said the packets have been proven to help the world's most hungry.
"If they only get one meal a day, of this meal, we'll pull them out of starvation mode and they can actually thrive on one meal a day. It's proven," he said. "With their hands, they're doing something that's going to help someone else."
Hokit said she hopes the volunteers were able to see how easy it is to support their neighbors.
"They've been able to see it does take work to show love to others, and it takes time and it takes effort, but it's not a difficult thing to do," she said.
Sawyer said the county's hunger challenge goal is to raise and distribute 100,000 meals to the hungry in Mayes County by March.
The hunger challenge is part of a greater mission in Oklahoma to raise 1.2 million meals.