Food relief campaign marches on

MARSHALL – Students and adults joined hands and hearts Friday morning at Marshall Middle School, where, approximately 100,000 meals were packaged as part of a Food For Kidz hunger relief campaign.

This year marked the fifth straight year that Marshall Sunrise Rotary Club and MMS collaborated for the packing event, which supplies food locally as well as worldwide.

“We tried to look at a project that met one of our goals, which was working to eradicate hunger in the Marshall area and in the world,” Rotarian Eric Luther said. “Serving a million meals was our goal, so we wanted to be doing a project and working with our other groups in the community to achieve those goals, both locally and in the world.”

Luther was impressed with the efficiency of the volunteers, which included Rotarians, MMS students and school personnel, as well as roughly 20 students from Marshall Area Christian School.

“We’re kind of ahead of schedule on the number of meals,” Luther said. “They just told me we’re at about 80,000 meals, with one more group left, so we’ll probably be right at 100,000. It’s been a great team effort.”

Luther estimated that 15,000 to 20,000 of the fortified rice-soy protein meal packages would be delivered to the Marshall Kitchen Table Food Shelf.

“They’re going to great use in town,” he said. “They really utilize those meals and teach their clients on how to prepare these, with maybe chicken, pork or some other protein.”

MMS Principal Mary Kay Thomas said she appreciated that some of the meals focused on local needs, especially factoring in that nearly 35 percent of the students in the district qualify for free or reduced lunch.

“Those families qualify for the food shelf,” Thomas said. “There is a need there.”

The remaining packages will go toward the international food relief campaign, Luther said.

“The balance will be given out through the Food for Kidz organization in their distribution system and it’ll go to parts of the world that need it,” he said.

Luther believes the students have really embraced the project and credits the adults in the school for supporting it and helping teach students about giving back to the community.

“It’s something they probably should do, as responsible young adults, giving back to the community in some way,” Luther said. “I think the kids really get it. They like to have a little fun at same time, so it works well.”

After adjusting their hair nets and applying hand sanitizer, the students got ready to work. Each grade level worked in one-hour shifts.

“It was fun,” MMS fifth-grader Courtney Schultz said. “I did every job except stapling and putting the packages in boxes.”

Elizabeth Stucker also thought the process was fun, but added she knew how important the project is.

“I thought it was awesome because we got to help the people across the seas that didn’t have any food over there,” Stucker said.

Whether the volunteers were measuring the meals, refilling containers, using the melting machine, boxing, taping up boxes or transporting boxes, everyone contributed in some way. MMS fifth-grader John Smentek said his favorite part was dumping the food through the funnel.

“It was fun and hard at the same time, the packaging and all that,” Smentek said. “I just like helping the needy and stuff, and I like seeing all those poor families have food.”

MMS teacher Justin Bouwman said it takes a little while for students to get used to the assembly-line system, but that they catch on pretty quickly.

“The first 10 minutes, it goes kind of slow,” he said. “But once they get into a rhythm, it goes fast.”

More people took part in the service project this year, Thomas said, noting that money and fundraisers took place all year.

“We raised over $6,100 this year,” she said. “Our goal was $4,000.”