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NRHS packs 21,816 meals for Kids Against Hunger

New Richmond High School students, along with several community volunteers, helped package 21,816 meals for Kids Against Hunger on Wednesday, Feb. 8.

All the meals, which are packaged family-style in sealed plastic bags, will feed 60 children one meal per day for an entire year, said Scott Anderson, director of packaging operations for Kids Against Hunger, a humanitarian food-aid organization.

Each bag of vitamins, vegetables, soy and rice can feed six people, Anderson said.

About 90 New Richmond students gathered at 1 p.m. on Feb. 8 to begin the packing process. The group had until 2:50 p.m. to complete its task but the group was so efficient that they ran out of supplies at 2 p.m.

"We estimated the amount of time it would take to package these meals based on (Kids Against Hunger's) calculations," said Rachel Sauvola, agriscience teacher and FFA advisor. "We just blew it out of the water."

The group's goal was to pack 20,000 bags.

Ten stations were set up in the NRHS commons. At each station, 11 people were assigned different tasks. Two people were responsible for putting the bags on the funnels. Once the bags were in place, four other people filled them with a mixture of vitamin powder, vegetables, soy and rice. Once filled, the bag went to the weigh stations, where rice was added or subtracted, depending on the weight of the bag. Once the correct weight was achieved, the bags were sealed by two students operating the sealers. Lastly, one person was responsible for packing the meals into boxes.

The idea for the project began when Sauvola and a few FFA members attended the National FFA Convention earlier this year.

Sauvola said she was given the opportunity to help pack meals at the convention and, after talking with the organizers, she thought it would be a great thing to bring to New Richmond.

The school's FFA chapter, along with the Student to Student Club and SPARK Mentors (two United Way funded programs), issued a challenge to classmates on Dec. 1 - raise $4,600 to feed 20,000 people through Kids Against Hunger.

The challenge resulted in more than enough money.

Ellie Wallace, FFA vice president, said Wednesday's packing event went smoothly.

"It was very systematic," she said. "Our group really got into it and really had it going for a while."

A friendly competition broke out at one point, pitting assembly team against assembly team to see who could pack the most boxes in the shortest amount of time.

Kids Against Hunger is a Minnesota-based organization. All meals are packed by volunteers, most of whom are younger than 18 years old, hence the Kids Against Hunger name, said Anderson.

Although it's impossible to pinpoint exactly where the 21,000 meals will go, Anderson told the local students that the meals will likely end up in a country like Haiti or a refugee camp in the Horn of Africa, where a famine is causing children and families to starve to death.

Not all meals will travel out of the United States, Sauvola said. Seventy-seven bags (462 meals) were set aside and given to St. Croix County Public Health to be distributed to local families.

Teresa Kvam, a dietician with St. Croix County Public Health, said her department has a table in its office that is used to collect and distribute items to families in need.

"One of the questions we ask people who come to us is whether they are able to feed their families," she said. "Not everyone can. There's a lot of need right here, too."

New Richmond High School hopes to host another packaging event next year, Sauvola said. The extra money that was raised during this year's fundraiser has already been earmarked for that event.

Jackie Grumish
Jackie Grumish has been a reporter with the New Richmond News since 2008. She holds degrees in journalism and fine art from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. Before coming to New Richmond, Jackie worked as the city government reporter at a daily newspaper in Aberdeen, S.D. 
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