Hungry people in Michigan and around the globe could soon be eating nutritious meals prepared by schoolchildren from Saline as party of a yearly charitable project.
On Friday, June 1, about 800 pupils from Heritage Elementary School teamed up with the Saline Kiwanis to make more than 25,000 nonperishable meal packets to be distributed to charities both close to home and around the world.
This is the sixth year that Heritage pupils have participated in the effort by Kids Coalition Against Hunger, with Kiwanis volunteers managing pupils creating and sealing the food packets. Heritage social worker Joel Benedek said that, each year, the kids raised a little bit more and were able to create more packets. For instance, in 2014, Heritage pupils made up around 21,000 packets. This year, the goal was between 25,000 and 28,000 packets.
Michael Burwell, CEO of Kids Coalition Against Hunger, was on hand at the Liberty School gym to give instructions to classes as they arrived for 45-minute shifts making up food packets containing soy, dried vegetable flakes, rice, and vitamin-enriched seasoning packets. Burwell said the vegetable flakes look like they might be "Fruity Pebbles" cereal, but are instead dried bits of carrot, celery, green pepper, and other veggies.
"Why do we include rice?" Burwell asked the children. "It's because everybody all around the world knows how to cook rice."
Each packet can be mixed with 6 cups of boiling water and will provide a nutritionally-balanced meal for six, Burwell said.
Walmart, Saline-based Flatout Flatbread, the Marzetti Company, and the Saline Kiwanis provided funds covering about half the cost. Pupils raised the other half during a “Chew for Charity” district-wide fundraiser where students could pay to be allowed to chew gum, as well as a fundraising student-staff basketball game. National Honor Society Students, students from the alternative education program, PTO members, and parents all helped with the effort as well.
Many of the packets were picked up by volunteers from Washtenaw County-based nonprofit Food Gatherers, but other packets will be held in reserve for disaster relief and other emergencies around the world. For instance, Burwell said that 1.1 million of these meals were distributed as part of hurricane relief efforts in November 2017.
See the attached slideshow for more information and shots of pupils in action.