MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - Inmates from a Heartland prison were competing with each other to see how many meals they could pack for hungry kids in third-world countries on April 17.
The Southeast Correctional Center is the first prison in Missouri to host a Feed My Starving Children event.
The theme was to turn wrongdoers into ‘world changers’, and inmate Jonathan Leaks says the friendly competition added a layer of excitement.
“I’ve never seen energy like that in prison," Leaks said. “I’ve seen some guys come out of their shell and just filled with joy of truly giving back and change lives.”
Other inmates like Jervell Stanciel-el say they could not wait to pitch in and help hungry kids in need.
“I’m at a stage in my life where I want to serve," Stanciel-el said. "I was here before 7:30 a.m. I was like ‘I need to get in here, in need to figure it out. I need a front row seat because I do not want my seat taken.’”
SECC’s gym was bustling with about 200 inmates, staff and volunteers who were scooping food into meal bags and sealing them to be shipped to one 70 different countries the non-profit serves.
After eight hours of the work, the group packed more than 163,000 meals.
Danny Pyne, the senior event supervisor for Feed My Starving Children, says that amount of food will feed hungry 447 kids for a whole year, and says they have countless success stories.
“Kids that were too weak to stand and so frail they were pretty much skin and bones and were put on this food and were able to grow and get back to healthy stage,” Pyne said. “It is a scientifically formulated food product and it’s four ingredients. Vitamins, veggies, soy and rice and those things are so important for the physical development of the kids that we are serving."
Stanciel-el says seeing who the meals benefit made him thankful that he lives in United States and can give back.
“I think we should be thankful for what we have," Stanciel-el said. “Growing up in poverty I experienced being hungry sometimes but when you hear about the conditions in other places you don’t complain, because some people goes days and weeks without eating.”
Leaks described the event as a rare opportunity to help children in need while also healing himself.
“For most of us, this is what redemption looks like,” Leaks said. “It’s inspiring, and we want our voice to be heard and we want to go about it the right way by giving back and by doing good. It really is peaceful. I’ll sleep pretty good tonight."
Inmates at prison also raised 11,000 dollars to help pay for the supplies used at the event. The other two-thirds of the funding needed was provided by Cape La Croix Church and an anonymous donor from Missouri.
Staff at Southeast Correctional Center say they are already planning to host another meal-packing event in the future.