ASHLAND, Ohio — For about an hour and a half Feb. 19, the gymnasium at Crestview High School was transformed into one big food packaging factory.
All of the school’s 300-plus students, and a couple dozen from the middle school, donned hair nets and good spirits as they worked together to package 50,000 meals to help combat the issue of local hunger.
The event was organized by the Crestview-Ashland FFA Chapter, which worked with the Florida-based Meals of Hope program, the school faculty and various community sponsors to package 50,000 meals of a fortified macaroni product, which will be distributed to area food pantries.
Students were divided into teams, and formed a half-dozen different parallel rows, as they worked to measure, bag and box the meals.
Making a difference
The meals will all stay local, and serve families in Richland and Ashland counties.
“One problem that’s in our counties is hunger, and we don’t see it a lot,” said Crestview FFA President Jenna Purvis. “It’s a humbling experience to be able to kind of defeat it for a time being.”
Steve Boyett, program director for Meals of Hope, said the macaroni is fortified with 21 minerals and vitamins, plus soy protein.
“They (the hungry) have a need for a nourishing food, and because of the minerals and the vitamins that are in the product, plus the soy protein, they’re getting comfort food that actually nourishes them at the same time,” he said.
The chapter got the idea after participating in a similar food packaging event at last year’s Ohio FFA Convention, in the spring. Members also looked at the data, and determined hunger is a real issue for their own communities, as well.
They found that one in six Ohioans lives in hunger, and that locally, as many as 10,000 youth under 18 go to school without proper meals.
But bringing the event to their school was no easy task. The FFA chapter worked with the community to find sponsors and raise funds, and also chipped in several thousand of its own money.
The goal was to raise $12,500 — to help pay for the food and the logistics of the event. The goal was exceeded by about $1,000.
“We went above and beyond,” Purvis said.
Although the packaging process went quickly, FFA members and school faculty showed up as early as 7:30 a.m., to get tables and equipment prepared. And FFA members worked after the event, to make sure everything was taken down, and the gym turned back into a gym.
Boyett said Meals of Hope has done about five other programs in Ohio that he was aware of, and that there could be more as the year progresses.
He said he enjoys working with FFA members “because of the responsibility that the kids have and the leadership that they show.”
Joel Albright, the school’s FFA adviser, said he was pleased with the level of cooperation among students and faculty, and the results.
“The kids were very excited about the activity and did an outstanding job,” he said.