The assembly line was hectic at the food-packing plant in Aurora, Illinois, as Smart Intermediate School students were on the front end, filling rice packets as part of an outreach effort to feed hungry children.
The Davenport youths handed off completed packages to football players, who also had volunteered at the "Feed My Starving Children" facility in Aurora. The gridders were from North Central College, Naperville, Illinois.
It was hard to keep up, sometimes, according to Megan Dunn, a seventh-grader on the trip.
Led by social studies teachers Ellen Weishaar, Hailey Thompson and James Pigney, the field trip was an exciting climax to several projects related to classroom work on the continent of Africa.
The events this year during Smart's social studies classes at times involved the whole school, located in the west end of Davenport.
Pigney, a native of Aurora, suggested the meal-packing project in his hometown. With the backing of the Smart administration, teachers planned the trip to culminate the academic research.
Africa outreach projects started weeks ago with the students picking a charity. The students had seven to choose from, and after watching a series of YouTube videos, they voted on "Feed My Starving Children."
From the website — fmsc.org — Pigney found a packing site in Aurora, and the field trip for March 7 was arranged.
The group of Davenport volunteers was booked at the same time as the North Central College students, and that added speed to the packing process. About 50 to 60 football players were involved, Pigney said, but he characterized the routine "like a well-oiled machine."
The students spent almost two hours filling rice packets and weighing them, which could be a challenge, Megan said.
The rice products were specially mixed to be consumed by starving children. As the students had learned, some of the children they helped might weigh only 9 pounds, at 3 years old. The right mix of nutritious food would help the children to grow to a healthy weight in several months.
Packages handled by the Davenport students were sent to Haiti and Nicaragua, but Feed My Starving Children helps in countries all over the world, with many in Africa.
The project was embraced by the students, including Rhiannon Gomez.
"To actually go and help, I was ecstatic and so happy," she said. "I want to know I actually help starving children ... I was very proud to do this."
In total, the Smart kids filled 223 boxes, for 48,168 meals, which could feed 132 children for one year. The value of the students' efforts is $10,596.96.
The field trip was part of several projects that netted more than $660 for Feed My Starving Children.
The most popular event was a Pajamas Day: Students — and teachers — paid $1 for the privilege of wearing pajamas to school.
Another fundraiser was at Buffalo Wild Wings. The value of 10 percent of food consumed one night was donated to Smart's hunger project.
There was a popular dodge ball tournament: Teams of teachers took on students for the price of $12 per team and $1 to watch the event.
In addition, the seventh-graders sold gum and bottled water to others at the school.
Seventh-graders some times can be selfish and not realize what they actually have in their lives, Megan said.
"All these efforts made students appreciate what we do have," she said.