Lydia Taylor, 6, is happy to help out at the New Hampshire Food Bank, where she and her fellow students from Mill Falls School spent Friday morning putting together packages of macaroni and cheese for needy families. (SHAWNE K. WICKHAM/SUNDAY NEWS)
Charter school kindergarten students show they are ready to serve in Manchester
Those are the numbers behind a "service learning" trip to New Hampshire Food Bank on Friday for students from Mill Falls Charter School. But math wasn't the important lesson of the day.
The children walked to the Food Bank from their school, which leases space in the nearby New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper building. Teachers and parent chaperones helped them don hair nets, gloves and plastic aprons and then set them to work, assembly-line style, putting together packages of enriched macaroni and cheese dinners.
"So they get food and don't starve," added classmate Theo Stevens, also 6.
The Food Bank has had other groups, from senior citizens to the Manchester Monarchs, volunteer to pack meals. But this was the first time students from a public school had come to help, she said.
"It's an opportunity to teach them about community and giving back, while they're processing meals we can get out to the state," she said.
When the youngsters were finished, they had packed enough macaroni and cheese to provide 2,808 meals to needy families in New Hampshire. And they also had learned some tangible lessons, educators and Food Bank staff said.
O'Neil said students learned "number one, the impact we just made on the local community."
Bruce Wilson, director of operations at the Food Bank, said the project gave the youngsters "an opportunity to understand there are others — it could be their friends or neighbors — that are in need." The meals they packed on Friday "will be gone in a matter of days," he said.
That was clear on Friday. After kindergartner Livia Johnson filled up her first bag of macaroni, she looked up with shining eyes and asked a question familiar to parents everywhere: "Can I do it again?"