Columbia students learn gratitude and giving back with food insecurity lesson – Columbia Missourian

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Third grade teacher Lindsey Mueller reads a book about food insecurity to her class Nov. 16 at Two Mile Prairie Elementary School. Mueller experienced food insecurity growing up and shared her experience with the class so the kids know there are adults in their life who have experienced such things, too.
Third grader Malcom Satterfield rests on a classroom rug while learning about food insecurity Nov. 16 at Two Mile Prairie Elementary School in Columbia. His teacher, Lindsey Mueller, said that she reads the book “Maddi’s Fridge” every year but that “Saturday at the Food Pantry” just came out this year. “‘Maddi’s Fridge’ just focuses on the one family and one interaction, but ‘Saturday at the Food Pantry’ really expands on that to show the whole experience,” Mueller said.
Third grader Ellie Burgio draws a poster to advertise her school’s food drive Nov. 16 at Two Mile Prairie Elementary School in Columbia. The food drive started Nov. 16 and ended Tuesday.
Posters drawn by third grade students advertising their food drive lie scattered on a table Nov. 16 at Two Mile Prairie Elementary School in Columbia. The food drive accepted any nonperishable foods that were stored in metal or plastic containers, and the collected food went to the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri.
Who can tell me what a food pantry is?” Lindsey Mueller asked her third graders at Two Mile Prairie Elementary School on the Monday before Thanksgiving week.
Inspired by her own experiences with food insecurity as a child, Mueller used the holiday to teach her class about gratitude and giving back to the community by reading books and organizing a canned food drive.
The students began with the 2021 book “Saturday at the Food Pantry” by Diane O’Neill, which follows the story of Molly and her mom, who don’t always have enough food and are visiting their local food pantry.
Before she began reading, Mueller told the class she faced similar situations when she was younger.
Third grader Malcom Satterfield rests on a classroom rug while learning about food insecurity Nov. 16 at Two Mile Prairie Elementary School in Columbia. His teacher, Lindsey Mueller, said that she reads the book “Maddi’s Fridge” every year but that “Saturday at the Food Pantry” just came out this year. “‘Maddi’s Fridge’ just focuses on the one family and one interaction, but ‘Saturday at the Food Pantry’ really expands on that to show the whole experience,” Mueller said.
“This is something Ms. Mueller did as a little girl. I remember going to the food pantry and getting a little shopping cart, and I just thought it was normal,” she said. “I am able to relate to some of the experiences of the little girl in the story.”
As Mueller read aloud, several students asked questions.
“If you go to a food pantry, does that mean all the food is free?” asked Sage Miller. Mueller said it did, and she described the kinds of food available at a pantry. The shelves are full of nonperishable items, she told the kids, explaining that meant they could sit on the shelves for a long time without spoiling.
“Sometimes, food pantries will have fresh food like cantaloupe and tomatoes, like Molly and her mom got, but not always,” Mueller said. “People know they can depend on these canned food items to always be there.”
In the book, Molly’s mom said she lost her job after the local factory closed.
“What happens if my mom loses her job?” one student asked from his spot on the rug.
Third grade teacher Lindsey Mueller reads a book about food insecurity to her class Nov. 16 at Two Mile Prairie Elementary School. Mueller experienced food insecurity growing up and shared her experience with the class so the kids know there are adults in their life who have experienced such things, too.
“Then you will be able to use resources like the food pantry to help you, and then maybe one day you will be able to give back and help others in need,” Mueller said.
After finishing the book, Mueller asked the students to turn their bodies to face the easel, where she had written instructions for their class food drive. They collected nonperishable foods such as canned meats and vegetables, peanut butter, rice, cereal and pasta.
“For example, we wouldn’t want to go outside and get eggs from our chickens to give, right?” Mueller asked the class.
“No!” they called back.
They also collected money. “A $25 gift can provide 100 meals,” Mueller said.
After going over the details of the food drive, the students went to work designing posters for the drive to hang around the school so other classes can participate. Mueller said there are a lot of people in need this holiday season. “After COVID, there are so many people who still need help and are struggling,” she said.
Third grader Ellie Burgio draws a poster to advertise her school’s food drive Nov. 16 at Two Mile Prairie Elementary School in Columbia. The food drive started Nov. 16 and ended Tuesday.
According to the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri’s annual report, nearly a million Missourians lacked reliable access to affordable food last year, including 115,000 people who had previously not needed help.
The students reflected on their lesson as they filled construction paper with rainbows of different foods people could donate.
“Food insecurity is when you can’t find any food,” Sage said. “We are going to send food to the food pantry, so everyone can get all the food they need.”
Sage said those in need may struggle to celebrate the holiday. “On Thanksgiving, you have a feast with your family to show you are grateful, but if you have food insecurity, you can’t do that,” she said.
Classmate Ellie Burgio said no one should feel embarrassed to use resources like the food pantry. “It’s OK to need help sometimes, like Molly said in the book,” she said.
Mueller said later that it’s important for her to share her experiences with the class to put a face they can recognize to the problem.
“For a lot of these kids, this is really an ‘other’ kind of experience because many of them will never experience food insecurity,” she said. “By sharing my experience with them, it allows them to connect it to someone they know without putting it on another classmate to share their experience.”
Student Paisley Otto said after the lesson she knows what do if a friend ever faces a similar issue at home. “I would share my food with them,” she said, adding she would tell an adult so they can get the help they need.
Posters drawn by third grade students advertising their food drive lie scattered on a table Nov. 16 at Two Mile Prairie Elementary School in Columbia. The food drive accepted any nonperishable foods that were stored in metal or plastic containers, and the collected food went to the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri.
In past years, the Two Mile student council organized “Soup-er Bowl Sunday” canned food drives, but Mueller thought the lesson should pair with Thanksgiving this year to remind her students all they have to be grateful for.
The donations collected by Mueller’s class will go to the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri. Those interested in helping can go to the website for information on how to donate and volunteer.
The food bank is a great option because the donations stay local, Mueller said. “You are helping benefit the people right here in your community.”

Beth Butcher, Parkade’s English Language Learning teacher, got the idea from Instagram and TikTok.
Assistant city editor, summer 2021. Former education reporter, spring 2021. I am a Masters student studying news editing. Reach me at [email protected] or on Twitter @MadiStephens6.
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Elizabeth Brixey is the Columbia Missourian’s education editor and an associate professor in the Missouri School of Journalism. She can be reached at (573) 882-2632 and [email protected]
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