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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Thomson Elementary School students address hunger in their community

The Thomson Tigers love eating!

Members of the DC SCORES team at the downtown school -- fresh off learning about nutrition during our winter program -- eat three healthy meals a day at school and realize how snacks like sun butter and apples help them perform well on the soccer field.

"If you eat junk food, you're going to be lazy, you're going to be walking across the field," Maurice C. said.

But the Tigers aren't just living in their own little cocoon. Through the discovery component of their service-learning curriculum this spring, the students learned many startling and disconcerting facts about hunger. They realized that there are millions of people in the United States and even in their own community -- many of them children -- who don't get the nutritious filling meals they receive.

"It makes me want to help people who don't have food, because sometimes people waste food," Marbin C. said. "Sometimes they have food and they waste it, they don't eat it, and some kids are starving to death."

The DC SCORES team researched and realized how dire the situation is. Now, as part of the action component of the service-learning season, they're making a tangible difference.

On Tuesday, the Tigers invited a group of 20-plus younger students at the school to join them for putting together bags of trail mix to donate to D.C. Central Kitchen. The project produced two results: First off, six students stood up in front of the group and educated the first- and second-graders on why they were gathered in the cafeteria.

"16 million kids in the U.S. are hungry," one student read.

"One out of three kids in D.C. don't have enough food," said another.

"You can get headaches and you don't do good in school," said another about the effects of hunger.

Then everyone got down to business. Seated at a long table, the students took turns scooping paper cups full of nutritious gorp -- granola, cranberries, chocolate chips, chex mix -- and then depositing the cups' contents into plastic bags. Each kid, whether in DC SCORES or not, was responsible for making four bags and delivering them to the box station at an adjacent table. There, a few students were in charge of double-checking that the bags were sealed and then dropping them in the delivery box.

Within 15 minutes, an approximate 200 bags of trail mix were ready to be delivered to D.C. Central Kitchen, which will then distribute them to kids in after-school programs who don't receive healthy meals like the Tigers.

That made the students feel good. Two of them described the sense of accomplishment as "wonderful." Added Marbin: "We are giving food to people that need it."

"It's good because I get enough food, but they don't," said Maurice while sealing one of the final bags.


The Thomson Tigers' service-learning project isn't over yet, though. Not only did they provide food for students in need and educate the younger students at school about the importance of healthy eating -- everyone also created a large banner adorned with photos of nutritious fruits and vegetables -- but today they're doing something they've been looking forward to for much of the DC SCORES season.

They are writing letters to DC councilmembers.

You see, this winter there were a lot of snow days at school. And on those days, the Tigers and thousands of youth throughout the city who rely on school meals for nourishment were left hungry. A bill the council is considering would ensure that when winter strikes, the meal program would still be available to students.

There's a hearing on the bill in a few weeks, and the Tigers are making sure that councilmembers will have dozens of letters to look over from those directly affected by their decision.

Members of the Thomson DC SCORES team are now experts on their favorite subject. They love eating food, and they also know the negative effects of not receiving daily nourishment. Through service-learning, they're doing all they can both on the ground and in trying to influence legislation to make a difference so that more kids in DC can enjoy sun butter and apples after school and feel fit and prepared for whatever activity they're taking part in.

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