DENVER – The gym at St. James Elementary School was taken over on Tuesday, Dec. 18, as students, teachers and volunteers assembled meal packets to be sent to impoverished families.
While the food that they were packaging may not have looked terribly appetizing to the students, it will provide much-needed nourishment to those who may not know where their next meal is coming from.
The packages contained long-grain white rice, crushed, fortified soy, dehydrated vegetables and vitamin powder. Each individual package will make a total of six, single-cup servings. One of the servings provides enough nutrients to nourish a child, even if that is the only food he or she eats that day. The event was made possible by Servants with a Heart, an organization formed by husband and wife team, Suzanne and Jeff Yoh, of Charlotte.
“A child eating one cup of this a day will continue to develop,” Jeff Yoh said as he loaded the packages of food into a shipping box. “Unfortunately, they’ll still be hungry. Some of the areas we send food to are the ones where you hear about them eating bark off trees and mud patties. We really enjoy packing in schools because we use it as an educational event as well.”
On tables which spanned the gym, students and volunteers prepared a total of 50,000 packages which will be sent primarily to Nicaragua with ten percent of the total packets staying in the greater Charlotte area.
Prior to beginning the packaging, the students received a lesson from volunteers with Servants with a Heart on what poverty and hunger is and how it is both local and overseas. Then they were trained on how to assemble the meal bags. Each grade level spent an hour in the gym assembling the packets.
Ann Samuelson, a second-grade teacher at St. James, worked on a similar project with the same organization with her church and suggested to St. James Elementary School principal Shanti Clancy that the school take part in it.
“One of the projects that we’re working on this year is called the Positivity Project where our entire school focuses on a character strength a week,” Clancy said. “We learn what that means and how it’s important to have that character trait in your life. One of the first traits in December was kindness so we felt like this project fit in so well.”
Clancy added that many of the students at St. James come from families who are in the middle to high income level and don’t have the experience with poverty and what it means. She thought that packaging these meals would be a good experience for them to learn about and see what other children both locally and in other countries eat and that they can’t be picky.
“We talked about if there ever was a time they were stuck in a car on a long ride and they were hungry and didn’t have anything to eat,” Samuelson said. “Sometimes we eat lunch late if our schedules get changed and they are miserable when they don’t get to eat on time. We talked about how it would be like if they had to go for days without food.”
To date, Servants with a Heart have packed and delivered more than 16 million meals. The organization is entirely volunteer-driven.