WINTER GARDEN — The Crossings Church’s student ministries pastor, Marcio Pacheco, said he had felt inspired late last year to begin a program that could address issues of hunger among the impoverished peoples of the world.
The program, the West Orange High School Hunger Project, has become an annual event involving West Orange High School students, predominantly from youth ministries at The Crossings and People of Faith Lutheran churches.
“Last year, our church’s student ministry, called Adrenaline, started this project,” Pacheco said. “This year, we decided to partner with Feeding Children Everywhere, which feeds children around the world for about a quarter per meal. I called a friend, Erik Thone, from People of Faith, who loved the idea. We involved West Orange High School in this. All of the students on our student ministry did something to raise funds for this.”
Pacheco, a graduate of West Orange High School, has helped to grow the hunger project, which includes a variety of club events with proceeds going to the project.
“What makes (West Orange High School) a great partner is we both want the students to live impactfully,” he said. “It’s good to make good grades, but we want to have a purpose behind why. If they're driven and save lives, that’s a whole lot more that can enhance their lives. They have allowed us to really work alongside them, because some of their students are in our ministry. They’ve trusted what we’ve done in this relationship and said, ‘We want to see lives get changed.’”
Among the events at West Orange High School that will raise funds for the hunger project are ROTC’s Penny War, Student Government Association’s Paint Tent and Peers with a Purpose’s Black and White Snow Ball Dance, said Tisha Rambaransingh, SAFE coordinator at West Orange High School and sponsor of Peers with a Purpose. Peers with a Purpose and Club Charisma have worked together to collect more than 1,500 pounds of food for Second Harvest Food Bank in the school’s annual canned food drive, she said.
As for the actual event, West Orange High School will partner with Feeding Children Everywhere, as well as other community members, for a meal-packaging event from 1:45 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. Dec. 17 in the high school’s cafeteria.
“The experience at our hunger project from the moment a participant enters the room is truly remarkable,” said Jarrod Fucci, northeast regional manager of Feeding Children Everywhere. “From a CEO to a student, they all feel equally empowered and understand they are making a tangible impact in the lives of our meal recipients.”
When working in a high school, Feeding Children Everywhere understands students want to have fun while participating, Fucci said.
“They want to come into the project, laugh, dance and share how amazing their experience has been; we allow that opportunity to exist," he said. "Something awesome about this project in particular is the willingness to welcome the community. Not every event permits outside individuals to come in and package. However, here, it is truly a community coming together for a common purpose, to make effective change. We have developed partners that allow us to identify where there is not only a well-known dire situation, but one where a dire situation stemming from hunger can arise.”
Participants will hand-package more than 60,000 nutritious meals, which will be sent to hungry children and families across the country, including Central Florida. According to Feeding Children Everywhere, the hunger epidemic affects one in six Americans.
“Feeding Children everywhere is the one really understanding the poverty issue in Central Florida,” Pacheco said. “Last year, we focused internationally. This year, we focus on Florida. ’60 Minutes’ had a special on the children poverty issue in Central Florida recently that (caught our attention). Feeding Children Everywhere is just a great organization, period, with everything they’re doing.”
Leaders of the event are always looking for donations to help the hungry, whether financial or in the form of comestibles, including bottled water; canned chicken, tuna, fruit or vegetables; crackers; granola bars; baby food and formula; powdered milk and dry cereals; and peanut butter.
“This year, we’re trying to raise $15,000,” Pacheco said. “Last year, we raised $9,600, which equaled 38,400 meals. This year, food will go to children in Central Florida, as well. Everybody likes it, because you’re feeding hungry kids and saving lives.”
The organizations involved in the hunger project have been hosting other events to benefit people suffering from hunger, such as a skate night Nov. 21 and a profit share with the Winter Garden Chipotle Nov. 22. There will also be the 5k Away Hunger on Dec. 7. For more information, visit peopleoffaith.org, ocps.net, thecrossingschurch.org and feedingchildreneverywhere.com.