BS md-ho-hammond-high-relief-p1

Hammond High School students Sam Wiedorfer, 15, left, and Joshua Loeffler, 16, both sophomores, were among some 60 Hammond students and faculty who packaged and shipped some 10,000 dehydrated meals for people in impoverished areas. (Joseph Burris / Baltimore Sun / December 3, 2013)

About 60 Hammond High School students and faculty gathered in the cafeteria last week for a brief stint in the food service industry.

They donned hairnets and gloves and branched off to various tables to form assembly lines to package and ship about 10,000 dehydrated meals destined for people in impoverished areas overseas.

Students said they hoped some of the food would head to victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Visayas region of the Philippines last month.

The effort marked the third consecutive year Hammond High School has staged a meal-packing event. Led by its Student Government Association and members of school leadership classes, Hammond is partnering with Stop Hunger Now, a Raleigh, N.C.-based international hunger relief agency.


Sign up to receive our free daily email newsletter: Columbia Today

"It's a great way for everyone to get involved and give back to communities around the world," said Hammond High SGA president Tessa Patino, who added that Tuesday's event marked the ninth time she has participated in such an outreach effort at the school.

"It's a lot of fun, but you also know you're doing something great for other people," she said.

Alec Livieratos, Hammond social studies instructional team leader, said students who took part in the meal-packaging event came up with the idea during an annual holiday party when they began talking about possible outreach work.

He said the typhoon's devastation has been the subject of much conversation at the school. Regarding the effort to help, Livieratos said, "It's student-led, student-driven, and the kids are going to get it done."

"I teach government and current events, so we touched on … what happened in the Philippines and emergency response," Livieratos said. "We've even gotten involved with the [science, technology, engineering and math] team and talking about the science of global warming and erosion as well.

"The kids look to give back. They jump at these opportunities to get involved to touch lives halfway round the world," he said.

Hammond students packaged dehydrated soy, a blend of dehydrated vegetables, rice and a packet of 21 vitamins and nutrients.

Jarod Ring, assistant program manager for Stop Hunger Now, said the meals will either go to the Philippines or "they will help us to send that many more meals to the Philippines from another location." The organization also sends meals to nations in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

"Usually the thing that stands out with the students is that they say they have fun doing this service while certainly making an impact," Ring said.

Aida Jones, a Hammond High School math teacher from Cavite, Philippines, also took part in the effort. Upon hearing of the project Monday, she decided to join in. "It hits home because most of my family members still live there," she said.

Jones said none of her immediate family resides in the area where the typhoon struck, but added, "I do have friends and church members ... whose families who were in the eye of the storm. And they lost their houses and lost everything.

"There was a lady who was eight months' pregnant who had to swim about 50 yards to go from one house to another house," she said. "They made one house as a gathering place and pretty much waited it out there, and they were fine.

"My family members may not be directly affected," Jones said, "but they are part of a country that's going to be picking up the pieces from the devastation. It's just very refreshing to know that people still do care, especially young people."

Hammond High Principal Marcy Leonard said the Student Government Association not only packaged the meals but raised the money to purchase the supplies for the meals. Ring said each meal cost about 25 cents, and the students raised $2,500 for supplies.

"This has been an ongoing service project for our students," Leonard said, "and they purposely picked the middle of the holiday season to do this activity.

"In this time of year, where we're often reminded of the abundance we do have, it's nice to be reminded of how we can make a difference, not just locally but globally," she said.

joseph.burris@baltsun.com