Woodward, Okla. —
Several local students recently boxed up thousands of rice meals that will go to help feed hungry children across the globe.
The meals were packaged as part of the Kids Against Hunger program, which is an international nonprofit humanitarian food aid organization. The mission of Kids Against Hunger is "to significantly reduce the number of hungry children in the USA and to feed starving children throughout the world," according to the organization's website kidsagainsthunger.org.
The website states that the organization, which is headquartered in Minnesota, has almost 100 satellite offices in 27 states and Canada. This includes a Northwest Oklahoma satellite office that is based in Cherokee, which helps promote food packaging events throughout the tri-state area.
During these packaging events, groups of volunteers, often just children themselves, come together to bag up a rice and soy casserole that is fortified with 21 vitamins and minerals, 6 dehydrated vegetables and chicken flavoring.
As part of the packaging event that was held this Saturday at Woodward's First Christian Church, 10 youths representing organizations such as FFA, Key Club, Pep Club, and the National Honor Society, formed an efficient assembly line as they worked toward a goal of packaging 10,000 meals.
For each bag they packaged, WHS senior Brendon Hines would place an empty plastic bag under a funnel. Then seniors Andrea Allison and Jaci Hodges poured in a cup each of enriched rice and soy grains, while seniors Rachel Reardon and Jennesa Wilson poured in tablespoon each of the vegetables and the nutrient mixture. Once full, sophomore Ashton Baggs would transfer the packages to the sealing station. Seniors Stevie Freeman and Sierra White then made sure the bags weren't too full before handing them off to senior Francisco Alvarez and Matt Clark of Weatherford, for sealing and packing into boxes.
Within their first hour or so of work, the students had filled 18 boxes, with each box holding enough rice and soy packages to provide 216 meals.
The local packaging event had been organized by Jaci Hodges, who said she first learned about Kids Against Hunger when she attended the FFA Washington Leadership Conference (WLC) in Washington D.C. this past June.
"We had so much fun when we did it at WLC that I wanted to bring it back to my hometown," Hodges said.
She said she wanted to share the project with other students in Woodward because "I just thought it was a really neat volunteer idea to help make a difference."
Hodges is already planning to hold more events and said she eventually hopes to get a project started at the high school itself so even more students can get involved.
Shelly Stewart, secretary of Kids Against Hunger-Northwest Oklahoma, said the food packaged in Woodward on Saturday could potentially go to feed children in any number of foreign countries.
In the past food packaged by Kids Against Hunger-Northwest Oklahoma has been sent to Haiti, Mexico, the Philippines and several African nations, including Kenya, Liberia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe, Stewart said.
Some of the meals also stay right here in the United States.
Stewart noted that "25 percent of what we did last year stayed in Oklahoma to be distributed through the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma."
However, she said the Regional Food Bank has now set up its own packaging program, so that the meals packaged by the Cherokee office can go to other locations.
Since Kids Against Hunger-Northwest Oklahoma was established in December 2007, Stewart said the Cherokee-based satellite office has packaged over 3 million meals thanks to the help of hundreds of volunteers.
"We operate strictly on donations and volunteer help," said Monte Stewart, director of Kids Against Hunger-Northwest Oklahoma.
To learn more about the organization, including how you can help by making a donation or setting up a packaging event through Kids Against Hunger-Northwest Oklahoma, visit www.kidsagainsthungernwok.com or call Monte or Shelly Stewart at (580) 748-1785.