Stopping hunger 10,000 meals at a time

Lion's Club, students pack meals for Haiti
By Vicki Hyatt | Apr 08, 2014
Photo by: Vicki Hyatt Students and community residents gathered at the Pisgah High School cafeteria Saturday to package 10,000-plus meals that will be sent to Haiti. Those standing include Natalie Trantham, Stephanie Morgan, Cindy Smathers, Halen Tomkins. Seated are Mary Medford (front); Phil Webb  and John Dobbins.

CANTON — About 50 volunteers spent two frenzied hours in the Pisgah High School cafeteria in a effort that will make a difference thousands of miles away.

In conjunction with the Canton Lions Club, the PHS Leo Club (a high school partner with the community group) raised the required $2,500 to bring in thousands of pounds of food items that were packaged into meals for 10,152 children. All the meals packed Saturday will go to children in orphanages or schools in Haiti.

"That's less than 25 cents a meal," said Stephanie Morgan, a PHS math teacher who works with the Leo Club. "Being in a high school where most are blessed to get three meals a day, we really like that these meals will go to a school where sometimes this will be the only meal a student has that day. It will help parents feel better about sending their kids to school."

Morgan and several club members have attended state conventions where the Stop Hunger Now program has been featured. Students who learned about the program as freshmen were anxious to participate before graduating, Morgan said, so 2014 was the target year that it all came together.

The worldwide hunger relief organization distributed nearly 26 million meals in 2012, primarily through school meal programs in developing countries. Once organizations that want to participate raise enough funds to cover 10,000 meals, Stop Hunger Now will send in bulk supplies of rice, dehydrated vegetables and a vitamin packet that must be packaged into a six-meal serving before shipping.

That's where volunteers come in. Every person on a production line must wear a hair net and plastic gloves. Once 1,000 meals are packaged, a giant gong is sounded, signaling the group's progress.

Valerie Carpenter of Bethlehem, North Carolina, works with the Stop Hunger Now program.

"Groups need to provide money and tables, and we bring in everything else," she said.

Leo Club

In Canton, the funds for the meals were raised by Leo Club members, who staff the concession stand for JV football games, Morgan said. This year, Canton hosted the Pisgah/Tuscola game and was able to earn $2,100 selling concessions that night alone. A yard sale in Clyde raised an additional $400, which was enough to make the dream happen.

The nearly three dozen students who showed up to pack the meals were joined by a dozen or so adults with the Canton Lions Club on Saturday when the meal packaging event occurred.

Each member of the Leo Club must volunteer at least 25 hours during the school year, Morgan said, though many exceed that number.

In addition to staffing the concession stand during games, club members eat breakfast with students at neighboring elementary schools in a "Breakfast of Champions" program, and every club member must be a member of a Relay for Life team to raise funds to fight cancer, Morgan said.

The club's motto, "We Serve," also gets students involved in a variety of other efforts such as helping one night a month at The Community Kitchen or with the Holy Smoke Barbecue outreach effort of St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Canton.

"Anything the students do to volunteer in their church youth group or on their own counts," Morgan said.

Morgan, who is a 2004 PHS graduate, said when she came back to teach, working with the Leo Club was something she volunteered to do.

"I was in the club when I was in high school, and this is something I really wanted to do. These kids are the best. You can have the worst day under the sun and then bump into one of them in the hall, and they just brighten your day. They want to make a difference."