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Armstrong School Program Helping Worcester County Food Banks

'Change 4 Hunger' culminates in packaging meals on Jan. 21.

Lemonade stands at some Westborough school events this fall have symbolized  a need in Worcester County.

“When 19 percent of Worcester County is undernourished, that’s a staggering number,” Armstrong Elementary School Principal John Mendes said Wednesday.

“And then 11 percent are children.”

Armstrong students and parents are trying to raise $2,500 to package 10,000 meals, each 25 cents, for Worcester County food banks. Students and community members will package the meals in the school cafeteria on Jan. 21, which is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Armstrong is partnering with Outreach Inc. on the project.

As of Wednesday, the school’s “Change 4 Hunger” program had raised $600 through donations and events such as lemonade stands at Armstrong’s open house and the Fales Elementary School’s Family Fun Day, parent Claudia Ramirez said. Fundraising began Aug, 31, the first day of school, Mendes said.

“Change 4 Hunger” also will help Armstrong students earn volunteer hours for the school’s third annual Presidential Volunteer Service Award program, he said.

Armstrong started the program at the suggestion of Ramirez, who ran one at a Colorado elementary school before moving to Westborough, Mendes said.

 “It’s really been an eye opener to me as to teaching children that life is about helping others, and showing that you care about more than just yourself,” Mendes said.

“I think that as a society, we want the world to continue to be a place for everyone to live and people to respect one another. I think there’s a lot of lessons that are taught through helping other people.”

Ramirez agreed.

“Most of the parents and kids have contacted me and said, ‘Do you have any ideas of what I can do to get some hours for the program?’ As much as the parents might be apt to help, sometimes on the weekend or after school you don’t have the time or the energy to go with your kids and do some activity,” she said.

“This is a good way to bring the community together and have the kids volunteering toward this program.”

Mendes and Ramirez showed an example of a meal being packaged on Jan. 21.

 “That baggie feeds six people, believe it or not.,” Ramirez said.

Outreach Inc. requires funding for a minimum of 5,000 meals, for ordering, packaging and delivery costs, she said.

Mendes said Ramirez contacted Thermo Fisher Scientific as part of her outreach, and the firm has agreed to “match whatever we raise.”

Ramirez said she has letters to several Westborough businesses, and placed donation buckets at Christina’s Café, the Bread Barn and Sabatini Ristorante and Pizzeria.

And in December and January, at Not Your Average Joe's,“you just have to mention I want to help the Change 4 Hunger event, and 10 percent of the bill comes to us,” she said.

Westborough High School also will contribute to the cause, she said.

 “We’re not asking people to give us $25,  $30. If we were to do it only with the (Armstong) school families, each family would have to donate $5,” Ramirez said.

Families from other schools are invited to help pack the meals on Jan. 21.

“Really, the goal here is empathy and compassion,” Mendes added.

“When you have children that have been taught that empathy and compassion are important, you’re more apt to have a better future” in that when seeing someone needing help, “you don’t walk by them. You actually help them.”

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