JAY — Students at the Jay Middle School are doing their part to help feed those in need in their community and around the world. They are doing it one can of soup at a time.

Students are collecting food or donations for the Tri-Town Ministerial Food Cupboard that serves Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls residents.

For the global effort, students are earning rice for the United Nations World Food Programme.

A group of seventh- and eighth-grade teachers began the hunger initiative in response to a challenge from the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, the program that puts laptops in the hands of all seventh- and eighth-graders, teacher Lynn Ouellette said.

Maine Learning Technology Initiative challenged students to “think globally and to act locally” on the issue of hunger, she said.

The global piece is to participate in an online activity at freerice.com.

Students signed up and then joined the initiative’s organized group to accumulate rice grains to meet the needs of world hunger. As of Friday, the website posted that there were 1,434 members, and 5.25 million grains of rice had been earned so far.

Students work online to answer a variety of educational questions in different subject areas. For each question answered correctly, 10 grains of rice are earned and donated to the United Nations World Food Programme.

As students get answers correct, the questions get harder. The program gives the students an opportunity to correct all incorrect answers.

“Students are given the opportunity to learn while they earn the rice,” Ouellette said.

On the local level, soup has been collected and filled a table and other areas in a teacher’s planning room.

The homeroom that brings in the most soup will have an opportunity to deliver it to the Livermore Falls center.

“I think it was good our school participated in a community activity,” student Abbie Hartford said.

Steven Ryan likes the good feeling he gets in helping someone in need, he said.

“It feels good to do something good for someone else for a change,” Samuel Moreau said.

Fellow student, Carli Farrington said she is pleased that they get to help people get food.

Students also earned money for the cause through a hat day by paying a $1 or bringing a can of soup for the collection. That brought in $55.

Ouellette said the experience has made students realize the need both locally and around the world

“I had one student stop working in the midst of doing the freerice.com activity (Thursday) and just sit for a few moments, obviously pondering something of importance,” she said. “Then he asked: ‘How many bowls of rice do you think I have provided for someone if I have earned 6,000 grains of rice?’

“I thought this was a good sign that a connection is being made between the questions they are answering and the fact that they are providing food. This is raising an awareness of the importance of fighting hunger in the world,” Ouellette said.

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