HANSON — When Troop 68 Life Scout Liam Keane began planning his Eagle Badge project, he was also looking for a way to make a difference in the world. His mom Patricia showed him the USA for Africa video of the Michael Jackson/Lionel Ritchie song “We Are the World” for some inspiration.
Dozens of music industry giants had left the Grammy Awards ceremony Jan. 21, 1985 and entered a recording studio to record the song — seven weeks after the Christmas 1984 record of UK Band Aid anthem “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” produced by Bob Geldof raised funds for African famine relief. The American recording, released in March 1985, also set aside funds for combatting hunger at home.
Fighting hunger at home was a concept that resonated with Keane, a junior at Whitman-Hanson Regional High School. WHRHS Guidance Counselor Courtney Selig thought a community garden at the school would be a good way to achieve both his goals.
“I wanted to change the world and help people,” Keane said. “Since we’ve been doing it, I realized so much about kids who you wouldn’t even think of going to the food pantry getting food or on free and reduced lunch.”
In some district elementary schools, nearly a quarter of students depend on free and reduced lunch programs, principals have reported at past School Committee meetings.
Keane’s idea was the beginning of what became Food for Thought, a school activity club of about 20 charter members working with Keane to bring awareness within the school about childhood hunger.
“School, community, home — we’re always looking for different ways to make that partnership and connection,” Selig said. “I think this was one great way to do that.”
The first project of the club was to build a garden out behind the school with produce going to the school’s culinary program as well as the pantries.
“We built it Memorial Day weekend, and club members have taken turns maintaining it, watering it, and harvesting it throughout the summer,” Keane said. “We have donated over 100 pounds of food to both Whitman and Hanson Food Pantries.”
He hopes the club keeps going long after he graduates and so long as there is a need in both communities. Members of Food for Thought have signed a meeting table they painted in hopes future members of the club will add their names for years to come.
“This project has become very personal for me and it has gone above and beyond my expectations,” he said.
Selig joked that the group thought they would be lucky to harvest a single tomato and it yielded 200 pounds of vegetables divided between both food pantries as well as tomatoes for the culinary program and salad fixings for the cafeteria. The carrot harvest was also impressive, Keane said.
“I wanted to do something different,” he said.
Bottle and can drive
To help fund his Eagle project, Keane is conducting a bottle and can drive from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 9 at the Nathaniel Thomas Mill on Route 58/Liberty Street in Hanson. [See page 4]
“There’s a lot of beer bottles, beer cans — especially after the Super Bowl,” he said. His drive will not only recycle the containers but continue to help feed neighbors in need.
Throughout this school year, we have also held other events to help support these food pantries as well as letting people know the importance of ending hunger within our communities.
One event was World Food Day, on Oct. 16. The club sold bracelets and hung posters around the school stating facts about childhood hunger.
“We raised $300 which was split and donated to the food pantries,” Keane said. “We also have also started an indoor garden in the green house at Whitman-Hanson High School where we will begin our seedlings for the outdoor garden, but also develop it so that we can continue to grow fresh “salad” vegetables all year long for the food pantries.”
Hanson Food Pantry Director Christine Cameron said donations of fresh produce from the Greater Boston Food Bank, area farms such as Lipinski’s in Hanson and projects like Keane’s are vital for clients.
“Or goal is to have people eat healthy,” Cameron said. “We have great farmers in our communities that help us that are very generous. … Anything we can get that’s fresh, we consider that much better.”
Youth involvement at the pantry has also included Hanson Girl Scout troops and the National Honor Society as well as the Boy Scouts.
“It’s great to see them involved because they are our future volunteers and they see what happens in their community,” she said. “We have some wonderful kids that come through and help.”
Last year the Hanson Food Pantry gave out more than 100,000 pounds of food last year, helping an average of 200 to 300 clients on a monthly basis.
“It is unfortunate, but we will always have people that need our help, and so we’re there,” Cameron said.
Two upcoming projects Food for Thought students are currently working on are a “Bagged Lunch” program for which they will be making 200 bagged lunches over February vacation and donating them to Main Spring House in Brockton and raising funds to enter a team into the Project Bread Walk for Hunger 5K in Boston which will take place in May.
To sponsor the group, contact Keane at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Souper Bowl fundraiser also raised canned goods donations for the pantries.