Rum River students help feed the world’s hungry

Their hair tucked under hair nets, their hands pouring containers of rice, vegetables, vitamin powder and soy into a plastic bag, and their eyes checking the weight of each bag before carefully sealing it, Rum River Elementary School students packed food for the hungry Friday.

Jason Blankenship and Jackson Christen – part of the packing crew at Table 8 – stack food packets into a box as Rum River Elementary School students pack 55,512 meals during the school day March 22. That evening parents and community members pitched in to pack 10,152 more meals for a total of 65,644. Photo by Sue Austreng

Jason Blankenship and Jackson Christen – part of the packing crew at Table 8 – stack food packets into a box as Rum River Elementary School students pack 55,512 meals during the school day March 22. That evening parents and community members pitched in to pack 10,152 more meals for a total of 65,644. Photo by Sue Austreng

During the school day students packed enough food to feed 55,512 people. That evening parents and community members pitched in, packing 10,152 more meals for a total of 65,644.

For the fifth year in a row, students in the Andover school spent an entire day packing food to be distributed to the world’s hungry by Impact Lives, a non-profit organization focused on leadership development and working to “transform communities one life at a time.”

For these Rum River kids helping feed the hungry goes beyond spending a day in the gymnasium packing food.

It means first learning about why people are starving, then raising money to buy the ingredients for the food packets and finally packaging the rice-soy casserole mixture. They can even taste that casserole if they’d like.

“Some like it, some don’t, but if you were starving why wouldn’t you eat it?” said Kenzie Meester, as she led Rum River’s Impact Lives packing effort at Table 4 last week.

Lessons don’t end there. Lessons learned go beyond how to feed the hungry. Children also learn their place in the world and how they can do something to help every day.

Just ask Kenzie.

“I like to think about how I can help someone every day, not just when I’m packing food. We’re helping someone today, but I think every day we can help someone some way,” said Kenzie, part of Rum River’s student leadership team and a member of the school’s Kids Care Club.

Kindergarten teacher Renee Blue, who oversees the Impact Lives project at Rum River Elementary School every year, sees it as a life skill the children are learning.

“There are needs everywhere. Even though they’re children, they can do something to help others every day,” Blue said.

For the Impact Lives project at the school, Rum River kids helped others by both packing food and raising money.

Some did chores for neighbors. Some helped out around the house. Some found sponsors. Some gave money in honor of someone. Some collected cans.

And one student put a quarter in a jar every time he ate a meal. Pretty soon he had the whole neighborhood doing the same thing.

“That really adds up,” said Blue.

Another fund-raiser that benefited Impact Lives had many students collecting old shoes that were sold for 50 cents a pound to a group called Green Sneakers, which makes those shoes available as affordable footwear around the world.

Mary Hoffer, event manager for Impact Lives, said Rum River “really knows how to do this – they are our flagship school.”

Hoffer said Blue and Rum River Elementary School provide the model for other schools and churches for “how to do it.”

“They really understand the service learning part of it,” she said.

Blue agreed, saying, “We wanted the kids to earn the money, do a service for others – don’t just go door-to-door asking for donations – and they’ve really come through.”

In fact, Rum River students’ service to others continues as the Green Sneaker shoe collection extends until Earth Day, April 22. Blue invites community members to donate their old shoes for the cause. Just drop them off at the school (16950 Verdin St. N.W., Andover).

To learn more about Impact Lives visit www.ImpactLives.org.

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com

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