Bucks County Herald

Pennridge eighth-grader organizes meal-packing event

MELINDA RIZZO



Maddie Hoffman, left, a Pennridge North Middle School eighth-grader, and her classmates measure ingredients to pack dry meals at an event April 18, inside the school’s gymnasium.

A Pennridge North Middle School eighth-grader turned her passion to serve others into a group effort, packing 10,000 meals for those who need them most.

Madeline “Maddie” Hoffman, 13, of Bedminster Township took the lead to fundraise to bring Rise Against Hunger of Folcroft, Delaware County, to her middle school last Tuesday afternoon.

A nonprofit dedicated to eradicating world hunger through providing meals and education to break the cycle of poverty in 74 countries around the world, Rise Against Hunger provides the ingredients and supplies to pack the food.

“It was easy to find them, but it took a lot of phone calls” to make the food packing event possible inside the Pennridge North Middle School gymnasium, Maddie said.

About nine Pennridge School District students and seven Pennridge teachers participated in the event.

Rise Community Engagement Coordinator Ryan Ehnts said the organization does about 300 events per year and in 2016, provided 58 million meals. A single meal package will make six meals, Ehnts said.

Maddie has been involved with helping others as long as she can remember. She helped fundraise the $2,000 needed to purchase the vegan meals and pack them. The packs include rice, soy flour, a dried vegetable mix and vitamin supplement containing 23 vitamins and minerals essential to prevent hunger diseases common from malnutrition. Once the meal packs arrive at their destinations, local beneficiaries may add meat, fish or spices to the preparation, Ehnts said.

Maddie also made a $500 donation from funds she received from Youth Service America, an organization aimed at empowering young people to make a different through local community service and engagement.

Packing stations were created inside the school’s gymnasium where volunteers donned gloves and hairnets to keep the ingredients as sanitary as possible during packing.

Sealing table seals packaged meal pouches where they are labeled, counted and boxed for shipment.

Wearing a hairnet and gloves, Pennridge North Middle School Principal Matthew Cole worked alongside his students and faculty. “The best thing about this is that it originated with a student and involves people in the community,” Cole said.

And students who understand the value of service were happy to help.

“It’s a good feeling to know I am helping other people,” said Vincent Sordina, 14, a Pennridge freshman.

Skyla Dingaro, also 14 and a Pennridge freshman, knew what to expect because she had already participated in a similar event. “I thought it would be a cool thing” to come out and help today, Skyla said.

Ehnts said about 85 percent of the food is distributed internationally, and the remaining 15 percent is sent throughout the United States to disaster areas for relief efforts.

“Our partners distribute to schools designed to bring people into the schools,” Ehnts said. The meals are free, but the location – a school building – is critical to receiving them.

“We understand that an education is the most power thing anyone can get,” and that’s how you “break the cycle of poverty,” Ehnts said.

For information about Rise Against Hunger visit riseagainsthunger.org.

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