Dec 27, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff WriterHundreds of Riverton Middle School students went home last Friday carrying enough food to last through their holiday break.
The bags filled with breakfast, lunch and snack items were collected this month by the RMS parent group in cooperation with middle and high school students who were worried about their classmates, many of whom rely on the hot meals they get at school.
When they go home for the two-week break, a lot of needy students aren't sure where they will find enough food to eat every day.
"Most kids I know survive on the breakfasts and lunches here," eighth-grader Tessa Mihelich said Wednesday while she helped prepare the bags of cereal, pasta, applesauce, cookies and granola bars for her peers.
According to an unofficial survey conducted last week at RMS, more than 140 students said they would benefit from an extra source of food over break. Names also were collected through the free and reduced-price lunch program.
"We have a goal of 200 sacks of food with seven days of food in each one," mom Becky Emerson said.
Her son, Chase Emerson, was helping with the effort, both to support his mom and through his language arts class. RMS students read "The Hunger Games" this semester, and their teachers asked them to think critically about the popular fictional story.
"We had a discussion about if there was a food bank in (the book), would the government have as much control," teacher Jessie Hauck said.
The conversation developed into an "anti-hunger games" competition through which students tried to collect as much donated food and money as possible.
The RMS leadership team also contributed, and the Riverton High School Key Club helped package several bags of food during their Thanksgiving service drive.
Hauck said her students were touched by the realization that some of their friends may not have enough to eat.
"There were lots of tears," she said. "It's been really eye-opening. But they have big hearts, and they were anxious to do service and help."
There wasn't enough time to package the food bags during class, but Hauck said her students were more than willing to meet after school on Wednesday to get the work done.
They also spent time at local grocery stores asking for donations, and teachers said the students were impressed with the community's generosity.
"(People) would talk to the kids," teacher Kami Poledna said. "They liked the idea of giving back to students (and keeping) it in Riverton.
"If they didn't have food, they gave money, and they thanked the kids for helping. It let people see they are really great kids."
Eighth-grader Crenna Martin said she enjoyed the experience, and she is looking forward to joining the Riverton High School Key Club next year.
"I think it's a good idea," she said.
The effort was so successful this winter that RMS mom Karen Murdock said the parent group will plan to organize another food drive before spring break in 2013.
For more information or to get involved call the school at 856-9443.
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