Students pack 20,000 meals

Eighth-grader organizes event to send food to Sierra Leone

kjahner@newsobserver.comDecember 16, 2012 

KYLE JAHNER

Amid a frenzied yet controlled chaos, with the hit song “Call Me Maybe” echoing through the gym, a middle school student shouted, “Runner!”

Twenty feet away, another student grabbed a tray and scurried over to a table covered with food. Plastic bags containing just-measured portions were placed on the tray, and the youngster ran back to a long assembly line of students weighing and sealing the packages.

Nearly 100 East Garner Middle School students pitched in for a Stop Hunger Now event last month, packaging 20,000 meals bound for Sierra Leone in just a couple of hours.

Sarah Flexman organized the event for her International Baccalaureate eighth-grade project, as well as her Silver Award for Girl Scouts. She had seen such an event in her church and had tried to organize one in the past.

“It’s fun, and it’s not a hard thing to do,” Sarah said.

This year, an anonymous donation from someone hoping a Wake County school would host a Stop Hunger Now event meant Sarah had the $5,000 needed for the meals.

The Raleigh-based charity provides the raw materials for the dehydrated, high-protein, nutritious meals consisting of rice, soy and produce. Each meal costs 25 cents.

Before the work got started at East Garner, Dean Wright, the faculty adviser for the event, said the packing would consist of controlled chaos. Minutes later, a cacophony filled the gym. Pop music reverberated as students worked frantically to measure, package and box the meals.

About half the students involved clustered around eight tables in groups of six, measuring the materials and putting them in bags. Portions were rushed by runners to a staging table, where another group of about 40 students weighed the bags to ensure proper serving size.

Packers shifted the packages over into boxes to be sealed up and stacked.

Students worked at a fast pace, some occasionally dancing to the music as they measured, poured, weighed and packed. They proved lively workers – every time a batch of boxes was sealed with packing tape, a loud gong rang out, setting off cheers from the whole group.

Along with being a Girl Scout, the event’s organizer also had a part in the school’s musical, “Beauty and the Beast.” In fact, the event forced Sarah to miss a dress rehearsal.

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