Splash photo by Josh Johnson

Members of the Barker High School Key Club take time for a photo after finishing up another weekly session of sorting and packing bags for the Food for Thought program. Pictured, from left, are Jacob Dunning, Zach Chichester, Calynn Moore, Caden Brown, Lindsey Dahl, Cody Dorn and Katie Huested.

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Why it’s best to give and receive
12/12/2012 10:43:37 AM

By Josh Johnson
Splash Staff Column

Remember that whole "do unto others" thing we were taught to live by?

Let's just say a refresher course came rushing back to me when I sat down with Zach Chichester, 18, earlier this month. Despite the fact it was conference week and school wasn't in session, Chichester made a special trip along with six other students into Barker High School to tackle a task that has become a weekly routine for the school's Key Club members: packing bags of food for fellow students in need.

I watched as the students took boxes of food from the Spokane Valley Partners food bank and separated them into about 80 individual bags - each one containing two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners, six drinks and six snacks. The bags were grouped into the eight schools served by the program.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT
How to turn $12 into two weekends of food for a local student, click here.

After he broke down boxes for recycling, I asked what is typically the toughest question of the "five Ws and an H" - why?

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Why, Zach, would you come in when you don't have to be here to pack bags for fellow students, some as young as kindergartners, who may be relying on the donations for weekend food?

"I like the fact that in the situation I'm in - I'm homeless - that this is helping people out in the same situation," Chichester replied.

He went on to share that he not only gives time every week to the program, but he is a recipient.

"The weekends, I don't get food that much," he said. "This program helps me out because during the week I get food because I get free and reduced lunch."

As if, you know, having food for its life-giving nutritional value weren't enough, Chichester pointed out some of the practical implications being able to eat over the weekend has on his day-to-day life, including his readiness to tackle his educational priorities come Monday morning.

"When I wasn't eating that much, I was having a bad attitude," Chichester said. "I noticed that since I get food, it helps my attitude on Monday."

Chichester wasn't the only Key Club member who spoke to the double benefit of both giving of his time and receiving food from the program. For Cody Dorn, 16, he is using his Key Club volunteer work as experience and a reference as he applies for jobs like bagging groceries. As to receiving weekend food from the program?

"I don't have milk for cereal, and they have milk in the bags," he said.

Calynn Moore, 15, lives in a household of seven where she is the oldest of five kids, but she is not related by blood to her caregivers. She said there is often not enough food to go around. In her case, she said she received food from the program before she ever realized where the food was originating.

"While I was receiving the bags, I didn't know where they were coming from, I just knew it was to help," she said. "When I started Key Club this year, to know that I can help give back with what was given to me - it made a lot more sense to me to actually give back."

Later, I talked to Central Valley School District Superintendent Ben Small about the program and about kids like these Key Club members.

"I can only hope I am giving back to our community as much as our kids are," he said.

The program has room to grow - literally a waiting list of schools who want to help feed kids on the weekend - but has the usual problem that there are only so many resources to expand.

Should it take being on the receiving end to remind us why it's so vital to give? No, it shouldn't. But I'm grateful for the examples of those who give what they have with no thought to what they have not.

Josh Johnson is editor and publisher of The Liberty Lake Splash. Write to him at josh@libertylakesplash.com.