Yum yum, yum, ready for an emergency to come

These students are combining the rice and lentil ingredients of the emergency hot meal.  - Tara Lemm/Staff Photo
These students are combining the rice and lentil ingredients of the emergency hot meal.
— image credit: Tara Lemm/Staff Photo

POULSBO — “Lentils, spice, chicken, rice.”

That’s the chant heard ’round the Poulsbo Elementary gym last Thursday, as each class with a little help from Ready Relief spent 40 minutes packaging food for the school’s emergency preparedness program.

Ready Relief is an organization, endorsed by the Washington State PTA, that provides emergency, nutritional food and assists in the schools’ packaging of the product.

On Thursday the gym looked similar to a soup kitchen, as six food-mixing tables and one food vacuum-packing table were set up.

Each class, with students adorned in hairnets and aprons, packaged a case of food. Each case holds 216 meals.

Into the mix went one cup of lentils, one cup of white rice, one scoop of dehydrated vegetables and one scoop of chicken protein. Each package was weighed to equal 300-400 grams, so a little science was incorporated into the food frenzy. Once the package was sealed it underwent the “toss test.”

“We throw them to test,” said Darryl Elves, a fifth-grade teacher who brought the program to the school approximately eight years ago. “If they can’t make the toss they can’t make the box.”

Elves said, years before Poulsbo Elementary joined forces with Ready Relief, it was up to the students to bring emergency food. He said 50 percent wouldn’t bring anything and the other half would show up with not-so-nutritional morsels — baggies of cereal, granola or Snickers bars.

“What preceded the program was a disaster waiting to happen,” Elves said.

Nowadays the school is armed and ready to wait out any disaster that may strike, as the students packaged a three-day supply of three hot meals that can feed three-quarters of the school’s population.

So what becomes of the protein-punched vegetable meal if it’s not used — in the past eight years it hasn’t been — at the end of the year?

The answer is the magic ingredient: “A win, win, win situation,” according to Elves.

Ready Relief coordinators take the unused supply of meals and donate it to the Children of the Nations Program (COTN), whereas in years past the unused food was tossed out.

COTN is an international organization that provides holistic care and food for orphaned and destitute children.

COTN uses the food prepared at Poulsbo Elementary to feed starving children across the world.

“We’ve got three days of hot food for the kids in case of a real emergency,” Elves said, “and in June, if it’s not used, it goes to feed starving children.”

Samantha McCabe, 20, a Ready Relief coordinator who co-chaired the Poulsbo Elementary packing efforts, said COTN serves 8,000 children each day in the African countries of Uganda, Malawi and Sierra Leone and in the Dominican Republic Caribbean.

She said Ready Relief makes approximately half a million meals each year.

“The kids love it in Africa and the Dominican Republic,” McCabe said. “They prefer it and each country adds its own spice for their unique tastes.”

Aside from locally helping globally, Poulsbo Elementary’s food efforts provide an invaluable, eye-opening experience for the little chefs. They get to help children less fortunate than them, and they truly understand the impact their efforts make.

McCabe said she often hears kids as they walk out of the gym say, “We saved the world today.”

Elves has observed similar sentiments.

He said when food packing day rolls around all the kids want to participate, and they do.

“They were just excited,” he said. “You could tell they knew they had done something at a young age that was pretty worth while. They get there’s a real purpose. They can totally understand that.”

Elves has a big appetite vision for the program at Poulsbo Elementary, which generates 500-700 pounds of dried ingredient each year. He’d like every North Kitsap School District school to participate and the entire state of Washington, maybe even the whole West coast.

“Imagine if every school in Washington was taking care of emergency response and had 500-700 pounds of food ready and if it wasn’t used, donate it to starving children,” he said with infectious excitement. “Oh my gosh, I just really, really see this program has great potential.”

To learn more about Ready Relief and COTN or to adopt the emergency preparedness program at school visit the Web sites, and

And the “lentils, spice, chicken, rice,” combo actually tastes pretty yummy, when boiled in six cups of water for 20 minutes.

“I ate some yesterday (June 11) and it has the Top Ramen taste without the noodles,” McCabe said. “It’s actually really, really good.”

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