One small plastic bag full of rice, soy protein, dried vegetables, and a vitamin and mineral supplement packet. It doesn’t seem like much. But to the food insecure, that one bag provides more than just a meal. It provides hope for survival, and for a better future.
On January 23, FCDS Middle School students - sponsored by the school’s dining service, Flik Independent Schools - joined with Rise Against Hunger to give hope to hungry people by packing more than 10,000 bags to be shipped to international areas of need.
In the Tierney Gymnasium, the fifth and sixth graders (and later the seventh and eighth graders) donned red hairnets and listened to Rise Against Hunger Community Engagement Manager Blane Maxwell talk about what they’d be doing and who they’d be helping.
“Each bag contains the equivalent of six meals,” he said. “Think about that one bag being a meal for six people.”
The food would go across the world to kids in countries like Haiti, Malaysia, Burundi, and Cambodia, to name a few. It might go to schools, hospitals, orphanages, or other community organizations, but each box, which contains 36 bags, is designed to feed one child for a year.
“You’re helping to break the cycle of malnutrition and undereducation, and you’re empowering these communities to feed themselves,” Mr. Maxwell told the students. “We could not do that without you.”
Students took up stations based on their assigned roles as fillers, weighers, sealers, runners, and boxers. The fillers donned gloves and filled the bags with a scoop of rice, a scoop of soy protein, a portion of dried vegetables, and a packet of 20 vitamins and minerals. Runners - the only students who could move among stations - took the bags to be weighed by another set of students to ensure that each contained enough for six portions. Once the weight was verified, another runner would take the bag to the sealers, and then to the boxers, so that the bags could be properly sealed and, finally, packed in the boxes.
The room hummed with energy as the students, overseen by roving teachers, did their part. Energetic music blared, and every time 1,000 bags were filled, a huge gong was struck and a loud cheer went up from the crowd.
Nancy Walker, Flik’s regional vice president and an FCDS alumni and current parent, was on hand to witness the program she’d helped to spearhead in coordination with the team at Flik and Middle School Director Dr. Michelle Klosterman. Mrs. Walker was inspired to get involved at her daughter’s graduation last year after hearing Yasmin Horner speak about the Forsyth Backpack Program. “It resonated with me when I heard Yasmin say that Forsyth County is sixth in the country for food insecurity,” Mrs. Walker said. “I wanted to do something that these students could really learn from and appreciate.”
Fifth grader Ben Tucker got the message. “I thought it was fun and I felt that I was part of something bigger,” he said. He served as a runner between the sealing station and the boxing station, and his favorite part was ringing the final gong - meaning that his group had reached their target of 5,000 bags in the first hour. “I was just so happy. It felt really good, honestly”
Sixth grader Emma Cuthrell, who served as a filler, also enjoyed the experience. “It was fun, and it was for a good cause,” she said. Once while she was filling a bag, she almost dropped it. “I kind of screamed,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘I don’t want to waste this food!’”
Ben and Emma weren’t the only students who enjoyed the day and felt the impact of their service. “When we surveyed students about Middle School Exploration Day, they said they wanted to do Rise Against Hunger again next year,” Dr. Klosterman said. “They kept saying how fun it was and asking if they’d hit the target, ‘Did we hit 10,000’?” [They actually surpassed it, filling 10,152 bags.] The event was so well organized, so every single one of them had a sense of contributing. I think they really felt responsible and understood that they were helping other kids like them.”