Members of the Rotary Club of Watertown joined with Watertown Middle School students on May 14 to pack up 10,000 meals for hungry children in Panama.
The groups teamed with Stop Hunger Now program, which will send the meals to those who need them. The volunteers filled small bags with vitamins, rice, a soy protein mix and dehydrated vegetables, who then passed them to more volunteers who sealed the bags and put them in boxes.
Marc Vermouth, New England Program Manager for Stop Hunger Now, told the volunteers that about 1 in 8 people in the world – 800 million people – are hungry today and 25,000 people die each day from hunger related causes.
The ready to make meals will be sent to schools in Panama to provide two-pronged assistance.
“This might be the only meal that a child gets in a day,” Vermouth said. “If they have a choice – do I go to school or do I go to work; school might be be more appealing if they get a meal.”
The students got community service hours for helping out, and WMS teacher Eleanor Donato said she thinks the 28 students got a lot out of the event.
“I think they had a lot of fun,” Donato said. “They took in the bit about hunger. We are doing World’s Fair in class and one student said ‘Panama is my country, and the food is going there.'”
Rotary Clubs around New England have lent a big hand to Stop Hunger Now. Vermouth said they pack about 20 percent of the meals in the region. He also goes to schools and corporations to pack meals.
Watertown Rotary Club President Terry Griffith said the group looks for ways to fight hunger.
“It is a concentration for Rotary Club in the region,” Griffith said. “We wanted to see how many people we can feed. We took it as a call to action through the year.”
The group also puts on a free Senior Citizens Lunch at the Sons of Italy Hall, donates to the Watertown and St. Patrick’s food pantries and provide meals for families during the holidays.