Royal Manor Elementary School fifth-graders offered bowls of soup to the community last week as a way to continue their fundraising efforts for Gahanna Residents In Need (GRIN).

Royal Manor Elementary School fifth-graders offered bowls of soup to the community last week as a way to continue their fundraising efforts for Gahanna Residents In Need (GRIN).

Fifth-grade teacher Tammie Miller-Wiard said the students started in August, first learning about worldwide hunger. They break it down, studying national statistics before determining how they could help with the problem. Miller-Wiard said the students often ask how they could help people in Gahanna, which is where GRIN comes in. GRIN is a nonprofit organization based out of the Mifflin Presbyterian Church that has been in existence since 1998. In its first year, GRIN provided food baskets and Christmas gifts to 19 families and now offers a food pantry and assistance with school supplies, clothing, emergency home repairs, financial aid for housing, utility payments and transportation costs.

For the past three years, the fifth-graders have chosen to provide assistance to GRIN.

"We're helping the hungry in Gahanna," fifth-grader Colton Bosaw said.

Bosaw said they form committees to organize all aspects of the fundraiser, which culminated last week with the Empty Bowl soup dinner.

The students borrowed money from the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) to fund their initial expenses. They had to purchase clay, which high school students use to make more than 100 small handcrafted bowls.

The fifth-graders decorated the bowls before the high school students completed the final firing, making them waterproof. The bowls were given away during the soup dinner to the first 100 families.

During the dinner, families could pay $10 to eat soup and bread. Fifth-graders did all of the setup and worked the event, also doing all promotional work to publicize the event.

Miller-Wiard said the committees do everything from decorating placemats to writing thank-you letters to business sponsors. They have board meetings to make final decisions, such as how much money to spend on different aspects of the fundraiser.

During the process, they learn a variety of subjects. Miller-Wiard said the students are required to research every financial aspect of the project. This year, they talked about having fresh flowers decorate the tables. After researching the cost, the students decided instead to make butterfly centerpieces out of coffee filters, which were donated.

They use language arts in creating the promotional materials and have to use math throughout the project. They also learn about manners when learning how to serve food to others and gain a better understanding of people in need, Miller-Wiard said.

"They learn that it could be any one of us at any time," she said. "You have to give ahead. We pray we will never need it."

Fifth-grader Taiz Cruz said 9-million people die annually from hunger. That's just one of the statistics the students learned during their research.

Lots of businesses, families, school staff members and other students helped during the process.

Miller-Wiard said the students would pay their loan back to the PTA and donate the rest of the proceeds to GRIN. In the first year, students raised $1,200; they raised $1,500 in the second year.

Miller-Wiard said students were very optimistic about their donation this year because this is the first year the students had paid all of their bills prior to the soup dinner.

In past years, GRIN has sent the students a letter, telling how many people they helped with their donation.

"It was really meaningful to the kids when they saw how much they had impacted the immediate community," Miller-Wiard said.

Every child in the fifth grade participates in the project. Miller-Wiard said it's part of their civic outreach and teaches them many important lessons.

"It's so important for them to know they can make a difference," she said.

The soup dinner and fundraiser tie in with the annual school art show, which allows families to stroll through the building and view student art either before or after dinner. This year's show featured one piece of art by every student in the building.

lwince@thisweeknews.com