Snohomish students help fight hunger
Drive collects 200,000 meals for Haiti and local food services
Snohomish High School senior Nathan Nicholson (left) and junior Lauryn LePoidevin fill a packet with dried ingredients which will become one of the 200,000 meals that were assembled at the high school on Wednesday, May 9.
SNOHOMISH — Nearly 1,500 volunteers assembled 200,000 meals to feed hungry people in Haiti and at homes throughout Snohomish County at Snohomish High School May 9.
The SHS goal was 150,000 meals but volunteers from throughout the county showed up for an unplanned second shift that evening. They packed an additional 50,000 meals after trouble with the truck carrying supplies meant a no-go for a May 7 event scheduled at Everett’s Henry M. Jackson High School.
The life-sustaining mission was seven months in the making, with students raising $42,000 for supplies beginning in October.
On the sunny Wednesday, student volunteers put their hard-earned money to work in the third annual SHS Fights Hunger event, using the school gym as a makeshift meal factory.
The students moved with machinelike precision but were bursting with heart as they carefully assembled a scientifically formulated mix of foods to fight malnutrition.
Sophomore Ashlyn Fischer, 16, was especially motivated about the day after an April trip to Haiti with eight of her peers.
She spent time at an orphanage, meeting students struggling to gain sponsors so they, too, could have a chance at an education.
There were two types of youth there, Fischer said: little kids or young adults, no one in the middle. “Everyone else didn’t make it,” she said.
And the prevalence of hunger was never far from sight. The SHS visit meant
luxuries the Haitians commented on; such as three meals a day, and juice, said Hallie Roberts, 15, who also went on the trip.
Student organizers from the school’s DECA marketing program trained their peers in meal packing. The student volunteers stood six to a table working in concert.
The costume of the day was hairnets and plastic gloves. Music blared from speakers, amping up the energy of already-inspired student body.
First a bag was placed under a funnel. In went a powdered vitamin packet, followed by a scoop of dehydrated vegetables, a cup of soy protein and a cup of white rice. Students alternated adding items to the mix, then sealed the packets, while others refilled supply bins and carted off the finished pouches to boxing stations.
Even the boxes conveyed the heart students put into the project: students in special education programs decorated them with daises, hearts and panther pawprints after the school mascot. Coloring sheets for children were added to the boxes before sealing.
While the students packed 150,000 meals in less than five hours, earning the money to buy the food was a months-long effort.
“Guess what? This is your project,” marketing instructor Ben Doucette said he told his students near the beginning of the school year.
Students gained experience and credit as they practiced cold calling two businesses a day soliciting donations. They wrote letters and drummed up sponsors. They also enlisted other schools including Riverview, Dutch Hill and Machias elementaries to broaden their reach.
The motivated teenagers emptied their own pockets, too, pouring everything from spare change to $100 they had saved into jars at school, Fischer said.
Classes also participated in a March Madness-style competition to encourage aggressive fundraising. Teacher Kelly Martinez’s class took home the win and brought in the goods — more than $4,500 worth.
The school raised $42,000 total, $36,000 which was used for the SHS Fights Hunger event and another $6,000 donated to local agencies, including Snohomish Food Bank, AIM High School, Sequoia High School, and Volunteers of America.
The money went a long way because the food was bought in bulk. Each meal only cost 25 cents and a donation of rice from food distributor Sysco Corporation brought the total down further.
“I really can’t wait to go back to Haiti. Before, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, but now I want a job like (at) Friends and Family Community Connection,” Roberts, 15, said.
Friends and Family was one of two key nonprofits that helped organize the event: the other was the Dream Dinners Foundation, the charity arm of Dream Dinners, a business founded in Snohomish.
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