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Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School, 5345 W. 99th St., Oak Lawn, hosted its annual Feed6 Meal Packaging event last month where students gathered together, while socially distanced, with their families, friends, teachers, and school staff members for a two-hour event, packaging fortified meals to be delivered to local food pantries. (Supplied photos)

Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School, 5345 W. 99th St., Oak Lawn, hosted its annual Feed6 Meal Packaging event last month where students gathered together, while socially distanced, with their families, friends, teachers, and school staff members for a two-hour event, packaging fortified meals to be delivered to local food pantries. (Supplied photos)

Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School packs meals for needy during holidays

By Kelly White

Wishing everyone to have the best holiday season, Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School students packed meals for those in need before they went on Christmas break.

The school, 5345 W. 99th St., Oak Lawn, hosted its annual Feed6 Meal Packaging event on December 4, where students gathered together, while socially distanced, with their families, friends, teachers, and school staff members for a two-hour event, packaging fortified meals to be delivered to local food pantries.

“This is one of my favorite community service events we host,” Heather McCarthy, Media Specialist at Oak Lawn Hometown Middle School, said. “I love seeing students, staff, and the community come together and help those in need. This is an event full of energy, hope, and inspiration. Everyone leaves knowing they have made a difference in their community.”

The event began in 2013 when McCarthy partnered with the Feed6 organization. She said this year; the purpose behind the event is even more significant while living in a current pandemic.

“I believe children should be exposed to community service and service-oriented activities at a young age,” she said. “The sooner they can experience making a difference in their community, the more likely they will continue to help support their community in the future.”

Feed6 organizes meal packaging events in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan, where volunteers come together to package nutritional meals of macaroni and cheese fortified with soy and vitamins – many multiples more nutritious than popular brands available in the supermarket. Each package created can feed six children.

Money for the food that was packaged came directly from district students who have collected a minimum of $30 to help cover the costs of the food, materials, and delivery.

This year, there were approximately 150 volunteers working in two-hour shifts.

“We are being very careful to follow all the CDC guidelines for social distancing,” McCarthy said. “Instead of having assembly lines of 12 people, it will be reduced to 6 people. We are also staggering the start and end times for each group to enhance social distancing. All volunteers will follow sanitation and hygiene guidelines and will wear a mask regardless of vaccination status.”

All of the generous volunteers on Saturday met in the school’s cafeteria where they received an apron, hairnet, mask and gloves to comply with the necessary sanitary guidelines. They then watched an instructional video on how to properly package the meals. After that, volunteers spread out through the school’s gymnasium where tables were generously spread out throughout the entire area to allow for proper social distancing. It was at these tables where volunteers first filled a bag with macaroni noodles, soy and a packet of cheese with fortified nutrients, weighed the bag to match the nutrition label. Finally, the bag was sealed, receives a dated sticker, and was packaged.

“I enjoyed working with everyone in my community,” Braden Robinson, 13, of Oak Lawn, said. “I really liked how I got to package meals next to my principal and my superintendent.”

This year, nearly 50,000 fortified macaroni and cheese meals were packaged.

“Adding up all the meals over the last nine years, we will be nearing a total of over 250,000 meals packaged,” McCarthy said.

Receiving pantries every year include, but are not limited to: St. Linus food pantry, St. Catherine, St. Germaine food pantry, St. Gerald food pantry, Our Lady of Loretto food pantry, Oak Lawn Park District Veterans program, St. Paul Lutheran food pantry, PLOWS Council on Aging, Operations Blessings, Trinity Lutheran Pads program, Salem Baptist women’s shelter and PADS program, Pilgrim Faith food pantry and PADS program, Park Lawn residential housing program, Simmons Middle School social worker program, Justice food pantry, Evergreen Park food pantry, Worth food pantry and Almost Home.

“I want to thank everyone for their gift of kindness,” Sean McNichols, Principal at OLHMS, said.

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Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School, 5345 W. 99th St., Oak Lawn, hosted its annual Feed6 Meal Packaging event last month where students gathered together, while socially distanced, with their families, friends, teachers, and school staff members for a two-hour event, packaging fortified meals to be delivered to local food pantries.

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