After several trips, John decided that the Brainerd area would be a great location for a packing facility. He knew that the area was strong in the non-profit sector, and knew that the communities would embrace this mission by volunteering of their time. John purchased a building in Nisswa, MN, renovated it to include 5 packing lines and warehouse space and in 2012, Kids Against Hunger Brainerd Lakes Area (KAH-BLA) was founded.
John ran the charity for the first few years. In 2016, he ran for political office and is currently a Minnesota House of Representatives member for House District 9A. Staff was added at that point. In April, 2019, Shawn Hansen became the Executive Director for the charity. She had served 6 years on the Board of Directors as the Chairman and moved over to KAH-BLA to assist with fundraising efforts, community relationships, and event planning.
In the early years, the focus was on packing for international food aid to countries such as Haiti, Syria, Sierra Leone, and others. One meal was packaged; a fortified rice meal. As time passed by, the leadership of the charity recognized that there is a huge need for food aid in the United States. More meal options were added; macaroni and cheese, and apple cinnamon oatmeal.
Today, over 80% of all foods packaged at the Nisswa facility are domestic meals and stay typically within a 100 mile radius of the Brainerd Lakes area. We are still involved with international meal packaging (about 20%) and ship to countries as needs are addressed. In 2019, international shipments include: Haiti, Tanzania, Venezuela, Bahamas.
In November, 2019; KAH-BLA rebranded and is now a community associate with The Outreach Program. With this change comes better alignment to our mission of feeding people; allowing us to package 7 different meal varieties; and expand our program within our local communities and reach out to greater Minnesota. Our primary packaging of meals is focused at our Nisswa facility, but we are also able to package at remote sites.
The Outreach Program of Brainerd Lakes packages highly nutritious, life-saving meals for starving children and malnourished children and their families in developing countries and the United States. The goal of the organization is for its meals to provide a stable nutritional base from which recipient families can move their families from starvation to self-sufficiency.