VCMS students donate and package 23,000 meals

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon - posted Thu., Apr. 11, 2013
Vernon Center Middle School Feeding Children Everywhere
VCMS student Demi Kamis weighs and adjust packages of lentil casserole mix during her shift at the Feeding Children Everywhere packing event on April 11. Photos by Steve Smith.

The student body at Vernon Center Middle School took part in a large-scale humanitarian project that was also educational and fun. For the Soars for Hunger event, the school partnered with Feeding Children Everywhere, and the school's goal was to raise $5,000, which would create 20,000 meals for an orphanage in Uganda, as well as locally.

Teacher Regina Lee said the students embraced the project, holding several fundraisers over the past several months, and exceeded the goals by raising nearly $5,800 to purchase the ingredients for about $23,000 meals. Lee said she and teacher Cynthia McManaman had the idea about six months ago to create a project in which all of the school's students could take part, and that would create awareness about poverty around the world, which ties in with the social studies curriculum, which also includes altruism.

On April 11, students came to the auditorium during their social studies classes and formed assembly lines wherein each student had a specific job. They combined lentils, rice, Himalayan sea salt and dried vegetables in a pouch which was properly weighed, sealed and packaged for shipping. Each pouch creates six lentil casserole meals when combined with water.

Teacher Regina Lee said most of the meals will be shipped to Africa, while some will be donated to the Hockanum Valley Community Council Food Pantry, and some of the students are likely also beneficiaries of the event. Volunteers from Feeding Children Everywhere, as well as parents and teacher, also helped.

To raise funds, the students held a penny war, a Hip Hop and Breakdance Battle, and another group called 2 Moms on a Mission raised more funds. Lee said local businesses and individuals, including Rockville Bank also contributed to the campaign.

Feeding Children Everywhere's northeast co-directors, Kevin and Heather Yoreo, gave the students a brief lesson on Uganda and then instructed them on creating the meals.

Eighth-grader Brooke West explained what she and her classmates were doing. “My job was to pour the lentils into the bag,” she said. “We're doing this to send to children in Africa who are hungry. It's so important because they don't have a lot of food, and kids are dying every day. We really want to help them.”

West said it was also an enjoyable experience. “It feels really good,” she said. “It makes a difference. We're happy that we're helping children who are our age or younger to get food. It's really fun pouring the food into the bags.”

Heather Yoreo said that after just two class periods, 7,200 meals of the lentil mix had been packaged. “We would love to come back again here,” she said, adding that churches and other organizations in Vernon are invited to take part.

Kevin said VCMS packaged close to 23,400 meals, which will be sent to a storage center with those from other events, including a recent drive at the University of Connecticut and one at East Catholic High School in May. A shipping container full of 250,000 meals will then be sent to Uganda.

“That will keep that orphanage in food for well over two years,” he said, adding that efforts across the U.S., including at schools, organizations and corporations, will net a million meals or more in April alone.

He added that VCMS did an outstanding job with the project. “They've been amazing,” he said. “They raised above and beyond their goal. The kids and teachers really embraced it. It was awesome to see.”

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