Charter school kindergarten students show they are ready to serve in Manchester
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)
Dylan Anderson, 8, left, and Madison Pile, 9, work as a team to fill bags with macaroni at the New Hampshire Food Bank. The students are from Mill Falls Charter School, a public Montessori school in Manchester, which held a "service learning" day on Friday at the food bank. (Shawne K. Wickham/Sunday News)
Arabella Mariano, 6, a student from Mill Falls School, concentrates as she measures out just the right amount of macaroni for a family-size meal at the New Hampshire Food Bank. (SHAWNE K. WICKHAM/NH SUNDAY NEWS)
Five-year-old Eric Drouart, a kindergartener at Mill Falls Charter School, works with Head of School Michael O'Neil to add soy protein to packaged meals at the New Hampshire Food Bank, where the entire school spent Friday morning volunteering. (Shawne K. Wickham/Sunday News)
Parent chaperone Jen Bliss helps Camden Marr seal a package of macaroni and cheese while, at right, Will Hancock applies a label to a finished package. The students are from Mill Falls School, a public Montessori school in Manchester that spent Friday morning putting together meals at New Hampshire Food Bank as part of a "serving learning" experience. (SHAWNE K. WICKHAM/NH SUNDAY NEWS)
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?"
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