Students at St. Peter’s Lutheran School are helping fight hunger in Guatemala by volunteering with a non-profit organization.

The school’s student body helped package 20,000 meals for Love the Hungry, an organized based in Louisville, Kentucky, that distributes food to impoverished countries.

St. Peter’s Lutheran has partnered with the organization over the last few years, but expanded this year on a larger scale, said Scott Krueger, a parent of three daughters who attend the school.

Individuals wearing hair nets lined up on both sides of tables set up in the school’s gymnasium as part of the packaging process, which required scooping items such as rice and other items from a large box that were provided by Love the Hungry. Students also assisted with sealing the bags using a machine before they were packed into cardboard boxes.

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Krueger, who also was volunteering for Love the Hungry, said he felt it was important for students to get involved and see the importance of their work during the Sept. 13 event.

“This is one way to try to give back,” Krueger said.

Love the Hungry, which was created in 2012, focuses its efforts on packaging nutrient-rich meals that can reverse the effects of malnutrition in young children, said Dale Oelker, executive director.

Other than Guatemala, Love the Hungry also distributes food to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Haiti and countries in west Africa such as Sierra Leone, Mali and Sudan. Fifty percent of children in Guatemala are currently undernourished, according to Oelker.

“For children that live in chronic day-to-day hunger in parts of the developing world, they’re nine times more likely to die from things like diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria and we feel like that’s simply unacceptable,” Oelker said.

Fifth-grader Sydney Johnson was among the hundreds of students who helped and said she felt it was important to make a difference for those who struggle with hunger.

“It makes me feel good how we all helped out,” Johnson said.

The meals students were packing included a packet of micro-nutrients that includes a vegetable blend, soy protein and rice, Oelker said. Love the Hungry plans to distribute 100,000 to 150,000 meals to Guatemala before the end of the year, he added.

The food will be given to two organizations it currently partners with, Bethel Ministries International and Bishop Guatemala, who provide hot meals to children there, according to Oelker.

Oelker said the work by students is greatly appreciated.

“It’s a part of the world that really benefits from this type of meal,” he said. “We are thankful to partner with St. Peter’s Lutheran School and it’s a great demonstration of how volunteers of all ages can make a difference.”

Scott Schumacher, principal at St. Peter’s Lutheran School, also commended students for their volunteer efforts as well.

“This is a great opportunity to put that faith into action in a real way,” Schumacher said.

Eighth-grade students at the school are required to perform service projects every year, while other students are involved in helping organizations such as United Way of Bartholomew County or Just Friends, an adult day care in Columbus, throughout the year, according to Schumacher.

Johnson’s mother, Allison, said her family has volunteered in the past to help pack meals at the school.

Her daughter’s efforts in helping package food for Love the Hungry is the start of future missionary work that she might be involved in, she said.

“I think it’s a beautiful way to show God’s love,” she said.

About Love the Hungry

Love the Hungry, founded in 2012, is based in Louisville, Kentucky, and works to distribute packaged meals to countries that struggle with hunger, including Nicaragua, El Salvador, Haiti, in addition to countries in west Africa like Sierra Leone, Mali and Sudan.

More information: lovethehungry.org.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com