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Kensington Elementary students help fight worldwide hunger

Kensington Elementary fifth graders separated uneaten food thrown away during lunch to demonstrate how much food is wasted in this country. The study is an attempt to focus on worldwide hunger.

Kensington Elementary fifth-grade teacher Deanna Herlong is trying to bring attention to how much food is wasted in America, a school wide project with startling results.
Herlong submitted a project for a grant offered by Siemens Corp, which challenged students and teachers to work together to create a way to make a difference environmentally.
“My students and I chose to focus on material resources and how we as consumers could become better conservationists of our food supply,” Herlong said. “Our concern over the growing number of people in the world suffering from hunger was fueled by the recent tragedies in Haiti and Chile. We decided to get to the core of the problem as it pertained to us--if we began by conserving our resources, then there would be more available to share with others.”
Each day her students observed students throwing away unopened, uneaten or partially eaten food into the school’s cafeteria trash bins. The goal of the month-long plan was to help students curb wasteful habits and become more aware of the needs of others.
“One of the strategies that we used was to collect all foods/drinks that our students threw away in one lunch period,” she said. “We inspected each tray or lunch bag before it was tossed into the trash bins and retrieved anything that was not eaten. It was a messy job.”
Students then displayed all the food collected on tables for the school to see and invited all classrooms to come take a look. They then took the food to a local Harris Teeter so it could be weighed. On average, about 80 pounds of food was collected on each collection day.
“Then we contacted Loaves and Fishes and got some statistics comparing the amount we had thrown away with the amount that it takes to feed families in need,” she said. “The results were startling.”
In looking at the problem, Herlong began encouraging teachers not to insist that students take “one of everything” in the lunch line. She also gave students ideas of what to do with leftovers, ideas such as feeding the birds with leftover breadcrumbs.
She encouraged parents to make lunches for their students on days when the school’s cafeteria was not serving foods that their children liked.
Posters were placed around the school suggesting that students make better choices during lunch and to not waste food. “We also did a presentation for the entire school showing that every six seconds, somewhere in the world, a child dies of hunger,” she said.
Herlong said that now some students come up to her and announce they cleaned their plates and did not waste their lunch. “So we’ve made a difference in some children; not all, but there are some that are a whole lot more aware and are making better choices,” she said.
“If we made a difference with 10 children, then they could make an impact in their homes and they would, hopefully, go out into the world and carry that with them. I see this as a big domino affect. They’re making a difference with their children and their children’s children.”
If Herlong wins the grant offered by Siemens Corp., she said it could mean up to $5,000 that would be used for the school.

Written by: Deanna Herlong, Media Specialist Kensington Elementary
Posted: May 05, 2010 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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