Students work to stop hunger

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Two years ago, when Stephanie and Teresa Neves were both students at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, they began organizing Stop Hunger Now meal packaging events at the school. At the first event, more than 75 students packaged about 25,000 meals. The next year, about 200 students produced more than 35,000 meals. The meals went to feed people in eastern Ukraine, Cambodia and Haiti.
Teresa graduated last year and is now a college freshman, and Stephanie is a junior at Paul VI. For this year's event, Stephanie hopes to match last year's number - or better it.
There's a lot of up-front work prior to the March 11 meal packaging event. Money is raised to purchase the meal ingredients, which costs the students about 29 cents a meal. Their goal this year is to raise $10,210, which will create 35,206 meals.
Stephanie said they started their work to raise students' awareness of world hunger.
"We wanted to do something at PVI to help people - to make a difference," she said.
A Stop Hunger Now meal packaging event is a picture of efficiency. Several hundred people gather in a large room and are seated at long tables set up in rows. The people on each row have a specific job. One row puts rice, soy and dehydrated vegetables into plastic bags then moves it to the next row where volunteers will add a flavor packet with vitamins, then weigh and seal the packages. Those packages are passed to a table where they are loaded into cardboard boxes, then on to pallets and moved to waiting trucks. A gong is rung every 1,000 meals to keep up the level of excitement.
In two hours, tens of thousands of meals can be prepared for shipment to hungry people in the United States and around the world.
Stephanie hopes that the program will continue after she graduates.
"I want to grow this at PVI and find someone who can continue it," she said.

To donate or register for the March 11 event
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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016