Four food-packaging lines were up and running Wednesday in the gym at Belton New Tech High School @ Waskow.
Students and community volunteers were packaging up meals to be sent to Haiti by Hope for the Hungry, a local and global outreach organization based in Belton. Another shift of students and volunteers was scheduled for later in the afternoon.
Hope for the Hungry has had a presence in Haiti for almost 30 years through its missions. It has built and operated homes and schools for both girls and boys in different locations in southern Haiti for many years.
In 2010, the country was devastated with an earthquake and this year Hurricane Matthew did significant damage to the country, destroying up to 90 percent of the southern area that was predominately agricultural.
The meals students, staff and volunteers were packaging are much needed to make up for lost crops.
The first in each line were scooping up rice and soy protein in measured cups and fed through a funnel into a package. Next up were beans and seasonings. The packages were weighed, and depending on how close the final weight was to 3.90 to 4.00 ounces, rice was added or taken out of the package. The packages were then sealed, labeled and put into a box.
Once the packers were comfortable in their assigned duties, Jeff Pedigo, director of public relations for Hope for the Hungry, turned up the music, providing as close to a party experience as was possible.
“If you weigh a package and it’s 3.95 ounces without adding or removing any rice let me know, I need to celebrate,” Pedigo said.
New Tech students funded the project by raising more than $4,200, which will result in 20,000 packages. Each package will feed six children.
This is the first time the project has come to New Tech, but other schools, churches and businesses have participated.
Every 11 participants can complete about 2,500 packages in an hour, he said.
When the hurricane hit Haiti, Hope for the Hungry didn’t have any meals to send, Pedigo said.
“We had some food in Haiti and it was used initially to feed students, but now it’s being used in relief efforts as well,” he said. “We’ve been in a scramble to get as many of these events funded and going as we can.”
The goal is to have the food on its way by Jan. 15.
“It’s a great event and gives students a hands-on experience that will have an impact,” Pedigo said.
The hurricane did damage the children’s home, but all of the crops destroyed will have a lasting effect, he said.
“We initially got word that we would need to feed 6,000 people a day,” Pedigo said. “We’ve been working on how to support that effort.”
Students Ruth Lawson, Landrey Agee and Skiler Pierce were the driving force of the Wednesday venture. They belong to a Bible study group and had decided they wanted to do something for Haiti, said Shannon Gish, New Tech teacher.
“We thought we might be able to raise enough money for some water filters, and then Mr. Pedigo suggested a meal packing event,” Gish said. “We’ll have about 90 students participating.”
Lawson’s father, Mike Lawson, is directive of cooperative ministries at Hope for the Hungry, so assisting Haiti in its recovery came naturally for her.
Meetings with Ruth Lawson, Agee, Pierce, Gish and Pedigo got everything moving, Ruth Lawson said. Students were excited to participate.
Landrey explained getting students involved in the Haiti project provides a real world perspective on what’s happening in countries that are geographically close to the United States, but worlds away in opportunities.
Landrey said she’s at New Tech because of the atmosphere and culture and the collaborative learning.
“It helps you with the real world,” she said.
Skiler Pierce, a junior at New Tech, believes she’s at the best high school around.
“Here at New Tech differences are celebrated and encouraged,” she said.
The fundraiser is a success because of everyone working together, Pierce said.
This project was part of a Purple Heart School event. New Tech Belton High School @Waskow was named after Belton resident Capt. Henry T. Waskow, who was killed in Italy on Dec. 14, 1943.
Ernie Pyle, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and correspondent during World War II, memorialized Pyle’s death in one of his columns.