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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Kids Against Hunger in action

On Friday, Krista Monyhan and I drove to Mankato, MN to take part in a really special opportunity. We headed to Franklin Elementary School, where the school principal had contacted Kids Against Hunger and organized a special volunteering day for the kids there. As we’ve mentioned before in this blog, we have a book (which I edited) coming out this summer about Kids Against Hunger, and it was my first chance to get to see for myself what the organization does.

When Krista and I arrived at Franklin Elementary, the day was already in full swing. We entered a noisy, crowded gym, where five long tables had been set up. Ten kids (and two adult supervisors), each wearing a special Kids Against Hunger apron and a hairnet* were at each table. The tables were covered with big plastic containers, each full of a different component of the special rice-soy casserole. As we watched, the kids scooped up rice, soy, dried vegetables, and “chicken” powder**. Each scoop went into a funnel, which led to a plastic bag with cooking instructions and nutrition facts. Once the bag was full, one of the kids brought it to the weighers, who made sure that the package was the right weight. If it wasn’t, they’d add or subtract some ingredients. Then another kid sealed the package using a special heat-sealing machine, and passed it on to be packed into a box.

None of these jobs sounds particularly thrilling for a kid, but it was incredible to see how all of the kids in the room were working together. They’d race, trying to fill more boxes than the table next to them. They’d relay orders--"less rice! More soy!"--and box counts down the line. Every so often, they’d trade jobs, so that everyone got a chance to try different parts of the line. And they kept saying “Come on, it’s for the kids! Hurry up, it’s for the kids!”

As I helped one fifth-grade girl learn to use the sealing machine, another girl looked at me and said, “I’ve been helping Kids Against Hunger for like, longer than I can remember.” I smiled and said, “That’s great! Today’s my first time.” But I have the feeling it won’t be my last—it was such a fun experience, made even more fun by a really great group of kids and their teachers, and other volunteers for Kids Against Hunger.

While Krista and I were there (and we were only there for half of the day!), the kids packaged enough food to make more than twenty thousand meals. That’s a lot of good, filling, healthy food for people who don’t have enough to eat—and all it took was one afternoon, a gymnasium, and a bunch of really great kids. These are exactly the kind of kids we had in mind when we came up with our series We Are Heroes (which includes the book Kids Against Hunger)—everyday, ordinary kids doing extraordinary things.

You can learn more about Kids Against Hunger at their website. And we’ll give you more information about our book Kids Against Hunger when it’s available for purchase.

--Beth Brezenoff
Senior Editor, Stone Arch Books

* I thought the kids would be embarrassed to be wearing hairnets, but no! At first, they seemed hesitant—when we handed out the hairnets to a new group of kids, one of them said, “Well, we look dumb, but at least we ALL look dumb.” But by the end of each session, they were begging to be able to keep their hairnets.

** The chicken powder is vegetarian, to accommodate the needs of various diets throughout the world.

Krista Monyhan and Beth Brezenoff at Franklin Elementary School.

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