Twelve third-grade voices blended as one. “Rise, rise rise,” they sang out on a recent Friday morning at Strawbridge Elementary School. “Rise against hunger now,” their anthem continued. “Rise, rise, rise. Rise against hunger now.” When they finished, their classmates broke out into polite applause and a lesson about poverty and its effects on hunger and malnutrition began.
Written by Strawbridge Elementary School music teacher Marissa Manthey, the song Rise Against Hunger has become a musical rallying cry for students trying to make a difference in their community and well beyond.
“We wanted to be part of a global initiative,” said third-grade teacher Karen Lucka-Beristain. “We used the United Nations’ ’17 Goals to Transform Our World’ as our foundation. The students chose hunger as their focus.”
Their efforts began with food donations to the VBCPS Beach Bags program. Beach Bags provides shelf-stable meals and healthy snacks to students who might otherwise go hungry during weekends and school breaks, including summer.
Lucka-Beristain pointed out that their efforts directly related to the students’ classwork. “All of this integrates into the math program. The students will come to the school, they have to measure out the packages and items.”
“We donated food for Thanksgiving,” Lucka-Beristain continued. “Then we had the opportunity to go global and we chose Rise Against Hunger. It’s a really good company.”
Rise Against Hunger’s mission is to end hunger by providing food and life-changing aid to the world’s most vulnerable populations. Originally founded as Stop Hunger Now, the organization packages millions of meals that are distributed to partners around the world.
“I know it is used in missions down in El Salvador and Nicaragua,” added Lucka-Beristain. “It goes into Africa, The Philippines and places like Cambodia.”
Rise Against Hunger also provides fresh water supply and education throughout the world, but the Strawbridge students are focusing on the just the food aspect with the organization.
Third-grade student Addison got involved after she learned about the plight of hungry children around the world. “I got involved because I wanted to stop hunger. We’ve learned that people around the world are going hungry because of poverty, and that kids, if they go to school and they’re hungry, they can’t learn if they are hungry.”
The students had to show an awareness of the problem of hunger in order to be selected for the one of the dozen slots in the chorus.
“Students wrote a letter and explained to me what was hunger, how did it occur, what was their buy-in on it, how did they feel about it and then discuss,” shared Lucka-Beristain. “The letters were sent to school administrators and the students were chosen using particular criteria.”
Their efforts were rewarded when they were invited to perform their anthem on WAVY-TV’s The Hampton Roads Show.
Third-grade student Chloe understood that her effort is bigger than a television show.
“I wanted to solve world problems and world hunger and there’s many different problems,” she stated. “I do Girl Scouts and we have packed 50 bags of food that will be put into backpacks for after school.”
For teachers like Lucka-Beristain, there is hope that lessons like these continue to be practiced well beyond the classroom. “What I want most for the students is for them to do whatever that they can do to help. Either it be getting fresh water, helping someone in need, to have that empathy and to be able to realize that there’s a bigger world outside beyond them.”
Check out a special performance from the chorus performing their song below: