Packing meals teaches Baxter students about giving back

Under the watchful eye of volunteer Anita Gerrety, Baxter fourth graders Rylan Ohearn (left), Joey Castle, and Emma Dewey pack bags of food. Thursday, Dec. 19, in the school cafeteria. The students packed 8,640 apple cinnamon oatmeal meals for the Outreach Program which will be distributed within 100 miles of the local program. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

With the theme of giving on many minds during the holiday season, students at Baxter Elementary got a lesson in giving back to their community by packing meals Thursday, Dec. 19, for The Outreach Program.

Formerly Kids Against Hunger-Brainerd Lakes Area, The Outreach Program packages meals to be distributed primarily to food shelves in the lakes area and within a 100 mile radius, while also sending about 10-20% of the meals packed overseas to developing countries and for disaster relief.

On Thursday, Baxter fourth graders packed 8,640 apple cinnamon oatmeal meals for The Outreach Program. The activity fit into the school’s second trimester theme of “building character,” one branch of this year’s buildingwide theme “Baxter under construction.”

“Our goal is for students to know that we’re all citizens of a larger community,” Principal Tammy Stellmach said. “... Oftentimes people think of giving as financial, and giving is so much more than that — giving of our time, giving of our care to the community, and so today students will be able to participate in giving of their time and giving of their care for others as we bag food that will be used and dispersed throughout the community.”

Part of The Outreach Program’s goal, Executive Director Shawn Hansen said, is to get kids, like the students at Baxter Elementary, involved in charity work at a young age.


“We know that if we take a child when they’re young and teach them about community service and volunteering, that as they become adults, it’s naturally ingrained in their culture,” Hansen said.

So students and teachers alike donned hair nets, aprons and gloves and eagerly scooped soy, oatmeal, dried apples and cinnamon flavor packets into plastic packages, sealed the bags and boxed them up to ship out to area food shelves.

“Our hope someday,” Hansen said, “is that we meet one of these kids on the street when they’re 25, and they come back and tell us all the different places they’ve given their time with all the great charities that are around the area.”

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .

Baxter fourth graders Clara Bolt (left) Drew Christensen and Joby Hubbard pack meals Thursday, Dec. 19, for the Outreach Project in the school cafeteria. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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