ANDERSON -- Students from McDonald County High School and the McDonald County FFA chapter, on April 27, partnered with the national organization, "Meals of Hope," to pack 25,000 meals for people in need in the local area.
According to the organization's website, Meals of Hope is a "nonprofit organization that is committed to bringing people together to fight the hunger epidemic."
Meals of Hope is the only meal-packing organization prioritizing keeping food packed within the United States.
Emily Hutton teaches agriculture at MCHS and is the McDonald County FFA Advisor. She said these packages will go to local food pantries throughout McDonald County -- Anderson, Noel, Pineville, and some local churches and other organizations.
"It's going to be chicken and rice vegetable soup that we're packaging. Each bag has six servings in it. So the kids are actually going to measure all the ingredients. We have to weigh it, seal them, put on our stickers and box them. Then distribute them to the community," said Hutton.
According to Hutton, Meals of Hope sent all the supplies, and the students prepped and packaged the ingredients.
Students had five options to choose from. The project's senior officers picked the dish they thought would be the most versatile and easiest to prepare. They settled on "chicken and rice soup" because it is the easiest to prepare.
Maggie Pratt is the McDonald County FFA chapter president. She has aspirations to study the field of poultry science after high school.
"This project was something we had heard about," said Pratt. "So we did our research and kind of looked into it. And we thought, 'Well, we really want to do this.'"
Braxton Bishop is the vice president of the FFA chapter. After graduation, he'll attend the University of Columbia for animal science and plans to pursue a veterinary degree to treat large animals such as bovine and equestrian animals. Together with Pratt, they share ideas and collaborate on various projects.
"Anything she has a question on, we think about it together," said Bishop. "She did all the paperwork for it, and I did the heavy labor."
The students formed assembly lines along rows of tables with measuring spoons, weighing scales, funnels, and package labeling. There were 10-gallon buckets containing various blends of spices, rice, and dry vegetables. They placed them at the beginning of the tables, and students wore PPE and systematically passed the packets over to the following students. They were racing against the clock, and within four hours, 150 students packed 25,000 meals of chicken and rice soup. That is roughly 104 packages per minute.
This was an experience these students will never forget.
"We have never done this before," said Hutton. "We hope that this tradition will continue for years to come."