A lesson on life skills from the King Arthur flour company came with another lesson for fourth- and fifth-graders at five Westerville Elementary Schools: charity.

A lesson on life skills from the King Arthur flour company came with another lesson for fourth- and fifth-graders at five Westerville Elementary Schools: charity.

A representative from the company visited Huber Ridge, Cherrington, McVay, Robert Frost and Hawthorne elementary schools last week to give a demonstration on bread-making. The students were given supplies to go home and make two loaves of bread, one for their own families and the other to be donated to the food pantry at the Westerville Area Resource Ministry (WARM).

McVay and Huber Ridge elementary schools participated in the King Arthur initiative two years ago and donated bread to Faith Mission in downtown Columbus, which students visited as part of a field trip.

Huber Ridge teacher Denise Mundy said she sent information to all the elementary schools about the program this year, and five decided to commit to the project.

The schools team with WARM, which Mundy said she thinks was valuable because it gave the students a better understanding of the needs of families in their own community.

"It's a real eye-opener for our kids to realize that the kid sitting next to them in class might really be hungry," Mundy said. "It's really hard for a lot of kids, really. They just have no conception of that whatsoever."

The service project also is a good one for students, Mundy said, because they get directly involved and devote their own time to baking bread. Many projects, such as food drives and fundraisers, just involve parents buying canned goods for students or donating money for their children, she said.

"We asked kids to give a gift. You give of your time, and you never get that back again. They really had to make a sacrifice," Mundy said. "I think it's one of the few times where kids really have to make a difference themselves."

The loaves of bread from the schools, which totaled around 800, were put into the 225 Thanksgiving food packages given out by WARM last weekend, said WARM executive director Scott Marier. The remainder were used in WARM's food pantry.

While Marier said WARM's clients benefited from the donation, he said the students also benefit from having the opportunity to participate in a service project at a young age.

Service projects like this one, Marier said, are key for teaching students the importance of philanthropy.

"I think it's essential. The more aware they are with the needs in the community, the more aware they are to address them," Marier said. "If we start it in the first or second grade versus waiting until they're adults, you have a person, lifelong, who is more philanthropic."

The project was especially beneficial for the students who were able to tour WARM's food pantry and talk to its employees and volunteers about the people they serve in the community.

"By having kids come and see the rest of the story - where their bread's going to go, how it's going to be distributed - it gives them a broader meaning," Marier said. "It helps them develop a broader understanding that the world doesn't revolve around them."

With the success of the project, Mundy said she is hoping that other elementary schools will sign on next year.

Under King Arthur's guidelines for the project, schools can only participate every other year, so students either participate in the program when they are in fourth or fifth grade, Mundy said.

If a different batch of schools participates next year, Mundy said the district can create an annual rotation for the project and commit to an annual donation to WARM.

"We really need to become a kinder and gentler nation. It's a good chance for our kids to participate and really have a hands-on part with that," Mundy said. "This is one (project) where we ask every fourth- and fifth-grader to step up and be a leader and really participate in service."

jnesbitt@thisweeknews.com

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