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Feed the hunger: School packs 26,000 meals for children in poverty

By Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — On Friday, the gym at North Hills Christian School is a sea of hairnets — blue, green, white, orange and red. Students group around half a dozen tables spooning vegetables, vitamin powder, protein and rice into clear plastic bags. The assembly-line set-up ends with a vacuum-seal machine and a stack of cardboard boxes, waiting to be filled.

The students work at a lightning pace, sending up a cheer each time a box is topped off, sealed and carted out the door. They know that soon, each box, each bag will make its way into the waiting hands of children just like them.

The school has been planning all year for this “pack-a-thon,” hosted by the nonprofit group Feed the Hunger, said school Executive Director Maria Lowder.

Feed the Hunger is a Burlington-based evangelical mission organization that partners with organizations at home and overseas to provide meals to children in need. The meals packed at North Hills on Friday will go to schools in Haiti, where they will be served to children during the school day.

Each meal bag costs about 28 cents to make. Constance McGrail, a teacher who helped bring the program to North Hills, said she and other teachers got younger students to think of it as a quarter.

“A quarter is a meal; to us, a quarter is nothing,” she said.

McGrail first worked with Feed the Hunger during a pack-a-thon at her church, First Baptist in Salisbury, and she knew she had to bring it to North Hills. The school’s Junior Civitan Club, which McGrail oversees, spearheaded the effort.

During the process of raising money for the pack-a-thon, students learned about poverty and how it affects children their age.

“It really started moving hearts at our school,” she said.

But working with a program like Feed the Hunger allowed students to have a direct impact on worldwide hunger.

“It’s about feeding physical hunger and spiritual hunger both,” McGrail said.

North Hills set a schoolwide goal to raise enough money to provide 12,000 meals for children overseas — a mark it flew past. On Friday, the entire school worked in shifts to help pack 26,000 meals. Lowder said that everyone chipped in with fundraising, including students who raided their own piggy banks for change.

Elementary School Principal Kristen Sabia said the school could have looked at the fundraiser as a competition, but it didn’t.

“We really looked at this as, ‘How many meals can we provide as a team?’” she said.

While money to sponsor meals is still coming in, Sabia said it’s safe to say the school raised over $7,000. That money translates into roughly 26,000 meals.

“We’re just overwhelmed with the response from our students,” Lowder said.

And Friday, every student took part, working to measure, fill, weigh, seal and pack each bag of food.

“Our kids from 4 years old all the way to fifth grade have loved it,” Sabia said of the elementary school’s morning shifts.

According to Feed the Hunger staff, during one hourlong shift on Friday, 144 staff members and students packed 35 boxes with 8,400 meals — enough to feed 35 children for nearly an entire school year.

“A lot of times with these kids, it’s the only meal they get that day,” Feed the Hunger staff member Vincent Graves said.

Feed the Hunger also provides weekend meals for students in some districts in the U.S. and during disasters such as the Charleston, West Virginia, floods and Hurricane Matthew.

“It’s helping all the way around the world and even here in our own backyard,” said Scott Hahn, director of food packing.

This week, students at North Hills got to be a part of that.

“We got to be the hands and we got to do,” McGrail said.

For more information about Feed the Hunger, visit www.feedthehunger.org

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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