LENOX — In the time it takes to complete a high school soccer match, dozens of teenagers Sunday afternoon managed to feed thousands of starving people worldwide.
In just under 80 minutes — or two 40-minute halves — 60 members of the Lenox Memorial Middle and High School boys and girls' soccer teams packaged non-perishable food for 10,152 men, women and children unsure when they will get their next meal.
Junior Matthew Helm spearheaded the project under the auspices of Stop Hunger Now, an international hunger and disaster relief organization.
Founded in 1998, the nonprofit has sent more than 275 million meals to 74 developing or needy countries, according to the boys' co-captain.
"Over 50 percent of the deaths of children under 5 [in those countries] is because they are undernourished," he said.
Heim pitched the idea to his varsity coach David Pugh after seeing Trinity Episcopal Church on Walker Street, where he is a member, participate in the program the last two years.
"We started in the spring and set up a website and raised $4,000," Pugh said.
Since nearly $3,000 was needed to purchase the food for 10,000 meals, the leftover funds give the soccer teams a head start on next fall's effort.
"We may have to up our goal to 20,000 meals," Pugh noted.
The Lenox girls co-captain wasn't surprised by the volunteer effort.
"Everybody knew it was for a good cause," said Lenox girls' co-captain Jackie Hathaway. "It was fun to be with everyone, I just wish we could do more."
In assembly line-like fashion in the Lenox High cafeteria, the dried soy, rice and dehydrated fruit that arrived in bulk were sealed in individual plastic pouches, boxed up and loaded onto a delivery truck to be shipped overseas. Depending on the destination, it could take up to two months to reach the hunger victims, according to Danielle McCrary, representative for Stop Hunger Now in New England and upstate New York.
"A lot of people we serve are malnourished so the vitamin packets are crucial, too," she noted.
In Heim, Stop Hunger Now has found a local advocate as he recently spoke to a local civic group about the group's effort to battle starvation.
Citing Stop Hunger Now statistics, Heim noted the world produces enough food for 10 billion people — 2.6 billion more than the earth's current population.
Yet, hunger is among the world's deadliest inflictions.
"In total, hunger kills more people each year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined," Heim told the Pittsfield Rotary Club.
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233