Unique Programs at the East Africa Location
While Midwest Food Bank has a distinct mission and a steady set of values as an organization, God’s guidance has taken each of our locations on its own path of discovery and growth. We are proud that our community has provided enough support and volunteerism to fuel our own unique programs. Exclusive to the Bloomington location, these programs started as ideas from our volunteers and grew into compassionate acts of care that reach worldwide.
Tender Mercies Program
Since food donations are scarce, Midwest Food Bank of East Africa needed alternative options for supplying food to the schools for the children. With the successful launch of the Tender Mercies program at the Peoria and Morton locations, the East Africa location’s board members decided they needed to try to implement this program in Kenya.
After deciding to launch a Tender Mercies program in East Africa, the largest dilemma they faced was taking away from the Kenyan economy by shipping the US product there. To work around this issue, they needed to learn how to produce this product from resources found in Kenya. So the board members once again made the trip to Kenya to look for a place to package for the Tender Mercies program. As with all great movements within the Midwest Food Bank organization, God had a plan.
While there, the group attended a church service and they met a man after the service who owned a soybean processing plant called SoyAfric. Cornelius, the owner of the plant, was so moved by the impact Midwest Food Bank was making in Kenya already, that he agreed to help without hesitation. He agreed to take on all responsibilities of the Tender Mercies program. He orders all the supplies and keeps inventory, and his plant packages the ingredients.
Once they had the logistics of the Tender Mercies program of East Africa in place, they began considering what was needed for nutrition for the children of Kenya. They wanted to use foods found naturally in East Africa that were packed with nutrition. They also knew that the product produced in the United States isn’t safe enough for children under the age of 5, but in East Africa, children go to school when they can walk. They needed something that was safer and more nutritious then what was produced in the United States Tender Mercies Program.
With the help of all the new friends the board members had made with their trips to East Africa, they came up with a solution. The Tender Mercies program of East Africa uses cowpeas, lentils, rice, full-fat soy, and a blended micro-nutrient package specifically for children in the packaged meals. This combination of ingredients is perfect because they are all produced in East Africa, and the full-fat soy is a byproduct of the soybean plant and therefore is conveniently already on-site. This combination of ingredients has a shorter cooking time compared to the product produced in the United States meaning less fuel is used to cook it. These meals are also safe for children as young as 6 months, so there is no risk of children getting sick or not being able to eat the product. Since providing these meals that are packed with nutrition, the educators have begun noticing a huge effect on the children’s work and appearance. They are doing better in their schoolwork, can stay focused for longer periods, and are more alert. They also look healthier due to the better nutrition they are receiving.
Not only does Cornelius use his plant and trucks to assist with the Tender Mercies program, but he does all of this at cost or even less, and it costs about $0.18 per meal. The plant employees hand package and deliver the product to areas with the most need such as areas that have been hit hardest by droughts. In 2017, the plant produced 280 metric tons (310 US tons) which is equivalent to 2.8 million meals. Midwest Food Bank of East Africa is the largest producer for the Tender Mercies program, and it continues to grow.