The Hungry Bears Program
Elizabeth Marion, a fifth grade student at Jones Intermediate School in Mt. Airy, NC, was recently recognized by the National Association for Gifted Children with the state’s Nicholas Green Distinguished Student Award for her efforts to help ensure that her fellow students have access to nutritious food to eat on the weekends.
What started as a passion for food and cooking led to the creation of a program to provide food for disadvantaged students at her school called The Hungry Bears Program. The program turned a vacant room at the school into a space where food could be collected and placed into inconspicuous weekend book bags for needy students to take home. “Every Thursday, I work in the food closet at school to sort the donated items and place them in book bags to be given out each Friday,” says Elizabeth. “Many of my fellow students were encouraged to donate to this program and in the first year of operation, twelve book bags were handed out each week. In the second year of operation, the book bags have increased to thirty-six.”
While she started cooking in the kitchen with her mom as a young child, Elizabeth also credits Rachael Ray and Yum-o! as an inspiration for combining her love of food and cooking with community service. “Elizabeth’s dream to help others is now being replicated in other schools in our community,” notes Superintendent of Mt. Airy Schools Darrin Hartness. The program currently helps students in three area schools.