- Associated Press - Saturday, February 22, 2014

HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) - Outpouring support led local organizers for Kids Against Hunger to double the meals they will be sending to the Philippines to aid in recovery efforts after recent storm activity.

The Rev. Renee Johnson, local program coordinator, said they reached their goal of packaging 100,000 meals. The board of directors plans to officially increase its goal to 200,000 meals later.

“We know the need won’t let up,” she told the Hastings Tribune. “As long as we can help, we will.”

The national Kids Against Hunger organization committed to make 1 million meals to send to the Philippines. With the ingredients purchased by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, organizations across the country have committed to packaging the meals to be shipped.

Several organizations in Hastings contacted Johnson asking to help pack meals. Instead of reaching the original 100,000 goal by March, the group met that goal in the middle of February. With the continued support of the community, the board is confident it can reach the new goal in March or April.

“The community has responded phenomenally,” Johnson said.

Toward the new goal, fifth-grade students from Watson Elementary School packed meals Wednesday afternoon at the Ministry Annex Building of the First Presbyterian Church.

Students worked an assembly line to put a scoop of broth mix, a scoop of dehydrated vegetables, a cup of soy and a cup of rice into a bag. Each bag was then weighed and sealed for shipping.

Steph Barwick, teacher for the fifth-grade class, said the students have been learning about government and citizenship in class. They talked about volunteering as a part of civic duty and learned more about the Philippines.

Upon arrival, Barwick said, she was encouraged to learn the students would also be able to use math skills and work on coordinating tasks.

“They are working together and having a great time,” she said.

The children enjoyed working with one another as well as making a difference in the world.

Fifth-grader Alex Curtis said it felt helpful to make meals that would go toward helping children in the storm-wracked Philippines.

Her classmate, Lexi Krueger, agreed. She thought the outing was a fun way to learn about other parts of the world.

“It’s so much fun,” she said. “I love it.”

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