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Recipe for Empathy : Rice, Water Rations Tell Hungry Tale

Times Staff Writer

Four ounces of white rice and five ounces of water were all that some Reseda High School students had for lunch Thursday as a group called “Students Overcoming Starvation” tried to bring the reality of a meager Third World diet to classmates.

“The rice is really pretty good,” said ninth-grader DeDe Prichett, gulping down the small serving directly from a plastic cup.

“The water probably wouldn’t be this good,” chimed in 10th-grader Jennie Hyde. “It probably would be all dirty.”

A Few Calories

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Surveying the crowded lunch area, home economics teacher Kay Greene said the rice-and-water lunch was giving the students some complex vitamins and a few calories, but not much more.

“If this was their meal of the day, in about a week they would start feeling faint, tired, and lethargic. And of course, there would be a loss of weight,” Greene said.

The unusual lunchtime fare was just one part a day of activities to increase the awareness of Reseda students to issues of world hunger. English classes wrote essays about hunger issues, social studies classes discussed the causes of starvation-producing drought and famine and health classes wrestled with the lasting effect malnutrition has on the body.

Students also brought cans of food to school. The food will be given to San Fernando Valley community groups for distribution to the poor. In addition, students donated $1 for the rice-and-water lunch. This money will go to the Hunger Project, a San Francisco-based organization that works to educate the public on what can be done to end hunger.

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2-Week Effort

The Reseda students’ efforts were a step ahead of the rest of the Los Angeles school system, which has designated May 13 through May 24 for an “L.A. Students Make a Miracle” drive. During these two weeks, activities will be held at schools to raise money for emergency medical supplies and equipment for Ethiopian famine victims.

“We started this effort after a group of New York City students raised $250,000 for Ethiopia relief and challenged students in other school districts to meet or beat the amount,” said Al Clark, the district’s administrator for student health services.

After wolfing down the rice and water, a few students went to the cafeteria to get a more traditional high school repast--tacos, enchiladas and tuna sandwiches.

“I just wouldn’t want to eat this all of the time,” said 10th-grader Shanan Henry, as she watched a friend quickly finish off a cup of rice. “But this is a good way for us to learn what people in Ethiopia and other African countries in drought areas eat when they do have food.”


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