Students make meals for thousands

By Jonathan Cannon

Herald Democrat

Talk about fast food. On Saturday, 500 high school students packed more than 60,000 meals in two hours and 15 minutes. The effort was the service project for those attending the Senior High Youth Connection, an annual conference held at Austin College for high school students from Grace Presbytery for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

The scene was part party and part assembly line as teens poured rice, soy, dehydrated vegetable blends, vitamins and seasoning into packages that were weighed, sealed and will eventually be distributed to starving children in Honduras.

“It’s awesome to see them all come together and want to do it and not feel like they’re forced to do it,” said Meghan Miller, a group sponsor from St. Barnabus Presbyterian Church in Richardson.

The 500 students who participated in the event worked in small groups, each pouring his or her single ingredient into the bags in turn.

“I have my one part that I’m always doing, but I depend on every one of the other people to put the bag together,” said 17-year-old Katie Lothrop, who attends First Presbyterian Church of Dallas.

The teens were placed in small groups on Friday evening, and Lothrop said the work gives them time to get to know each other. “It’s one of the most amazing bonding experiences,” she said.

The work was divided into three shifts, but Miller said for many of the teens 45 minutes isn’t enough. “They’re wanting to help, and make a big difference,” she said.

She explained that the teens have free time after their shifts, but many want to stay longer. “For the kids to want to spend their free time to do more of this, it’s a beautiful thing,” Miller said.

“Knowing that you’re helping another person is great as it is,” Lothrop said, “but with all these other people making food for other people, it’s almost unexplainable. It’s like Christmas … only you’re giving instead of getting.”

The food will be distributed by Send Hope, which has a children-feeding program on the Mosquito Coast of Honduras.

SHYC Mission Coordinator Janet Chester said the food will benefit starving children there, some so severely malnourished they were unable to walk before beginning Send Hope’s feeding program.

The teens who participated in Saturday’s event got a chance to learn a little bit about those children before they started packing meals. “It puts a face to what we’re doing,” Miller said.

She said it also created a drive in the students to exceed the 60,000-meal goal. Chester said, last year, the first year for SHYC to do the project, the goal was 40,000. Students packed 50,000 meals. “These youth are ready to go,” she said. “They want to spend their time doing this.”