SCES second graders fill pouches with food to fill stomachs in Haiti

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The Switzerland County Elementary School gym was filled with music and children last Thursday. Music played, the kids moved back and forth and laughed and chatted – but their purpose was not only to have fun, it was to help make a difference in their community and their world.

Complete with hair nets and plastic gloves, the four second grade classrooms, along with some help from third and fourth grade classes, at Switzerland County Elementary weren’t playing games. They had a project to complete.

And kids to feed.

The children were working on creating 10,014 meal pouches for underprivileged families and children in the impoverished country of Haiti through the “Kids Against Hunger” program.

Second grade teacher Gina Miles made the program a reality here last year, when the students worked to send food to the country of Zambia, and again this year she worked with her brother-in-law, Dale Oelker, who is the executive director and co-founder of the “Kids Against Hunger” program in Louisville, Kentucky.

Gina Miles said that as part of the program the children sold of tee-shirts to raise funds for the meals; and other classroom skills that came into play included things such as: graphing and science.

The students also made bracelets and pen and pencil holders from recycled products – all things that fit into the project based learning approach to education.

Gina Miles said that the students’ goal was to raise enough money to pay for 10,000 meals, with all of the food this year going to feed school children in Haiti.

The program also seeks to help local residents in need, and on Thursday approximately 1,000 meals were held back and will go to the Switzerland County Food Pantry.

With each meal costing 25-cents, that meant that the children needed to raise $2,500 in order to pay for the 10,000 meals, which led to the sale of the tee-shirts and other items; as well as collecting change from students in all grade levels and getting the teachers and staff to pay for the right to wear blue jeans to school.

The needed funds were raised; and Thursday’s project filling the packages was the culmination of a year’s work for the children.

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As much fun as the children had on Thursday, the business of feeding hungry children around the world is serious business to the “Kids Against Hunger” program.

The Louisville center was established in December of 2011, and since the program opened, a total of 1.64 million meals have been packaged; which were distributed in 11 different countries: Haiti, Zambia, Kenya, Jordan, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Romania, South Sudan, and the Horn of Africa – as well as meals that have been distributed locally in the Louisville area.

This particular project at Switzerland County Elementary School is supporting ‘Children’s Lifeline’, which is an organization based in Kentucky that helps children in Haiti by providing nutrition, education, medical assistance.

“Over a half a million meals have been provided to Haiti through Children’s Lifeline,” Dale Oelker said. “The meals that the kids packaged last week will be going to children’s lifeline.”

The organization has benefited from the work of 8,805 volunteers since it began; with more than 93,000 meals packaged in January of this year, alone.

“The kids today are packaging a vitamin-fortified meal that is shipped to non-governmental organizations around the world that are focused on helping to feed malnourished children,” Dale Oelker said.

In each bag is a vitamin/mineral powder that’s packed with 21 vitamins and minerals. Then a small scoop of dehydrated vegetables – carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers, celery, onions, and cabbage – is dropped in; and that’s followed by fortified soy, which is a key ingredient because it’s high in protein. That’s all topped off with a cup of rice, which helps filled the belly while providing carbohydrates.

“When the meal pouch is cooked with about seven cups of water for about 20 minutes, it provides enough to feed six people,” Dale Oelker said. “So every one of those pouches, we consider to be six meals.”

For those who would like more information about the program, Kids Against Hunger can be found online at www.feedthehungry.org; of by calling (502) 459-9199.