Portland students get the scoop on food insecurity

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PORTLAND — Four scoops of very simple foods may not sound like much, but for students at Deering High School, it was a very ambitious project.

On Friday, March 18, hundreds of students crowded into the school’s gym to pack more than a quarter of a million meals to send to countries facing food insecurity. It was the second such event held at Deering, part of a partnership between the school and the nonprofit group Million Meals Maine.

At last year’s two-day event, approximately 1,000 volunteers packed 217,000 meals.

Carlos Gomez, a Spanish teacher who is also a co-teacher leader for the school’s International Studies Schools Network, said three shifts of volunteers would pack the gym over the course of the day this year. The first two-hour shift, which began at 8 a.m. and was comprised mostly of freshmen and juniors, packed more than 69,000 meals.

In addition to DHS students, students from Westbrook High School, Cheverus High School, Lyman Moore Middle School, Jobs for Maine’s Graduate, and others pitched in scooping. The final evening shift would be a larger community event.

“We thought it would be a good community-building event,” Gomez said.

The volunteers packed more than 264,000 meals – one scoop of rice, one scoop of dehydrated vegetables, one scoop of soy protein and one scoop of vitamins – and the organization will also continue fundraising up until April 18, with information on their website.

Dale Carlson, who chairs MMM, said partnering with DHS was important because it got the students involved, and because the school is so diverse. He said students at Deering may come from families who experienced food insecurity, or may even have experienced it themselves.

“To be able to send (these meals) is extremely meaningful,” Carlson said.

Deering senior Maryan Isack said she does other work in greater Portland to help combat hunger, and has been inspired from a young age to take a stand.

“I’m a strong advocate for that,” she said.

Student Kerry Wells spoke of the school’s commitment to global issues, including poverty and hunger, and Max Chabot mentioned the school’s diversity.

But Emily Krabbe said she had classes with people who had come from countries that experience food insecurity.

“It’s more of a personalized level,” she said.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Students Chris Kombo, left, Jordaine Grant, and Alan Thach package food for international disaster and starvation relief on Friday, March 18, in the Deering High School gymnasium as part of the annual Million Meals Maine program. (Dan D’Ippolito / For The Forecaster)

Students package food for international disaster and starvation relief on Friday, March 18 in the Deering High School gymnasium as part of the annual Million Meals Maine program. (Dan D’Ippolito / For The Forecaster)

More than 250,000 bags of mixed soy, rice, vegetables and vitamins were packaged for international disaster and starvation relief on Friday, March 18 in the Deering High School gymnasium through the annual Million Meals Maine program. (Dan D’Ippolito / For The Forecaster)

More than 250,000 bags of mixed soy, rice, vegetables and vitamins were packaged for international disaster and starvation relief on Friday, March 18 in the Deering High School gymnasium through the annual Million Meals Maine program. (DDan D’Ippolito / For The Forecaster)

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.
  • Charity Hirst

    Thanks for the story, Colin! And thanks to this community for their generosity and caring!