It was organized, if a bit chaotic at first — the first part of Spartan Service Week at West Hall High School on Monday.

More than 900 students rotated through the cafeteria and packed 50,608 meals, Shenley Rountree, the coordinator for the week, said.

“Everything got packaged,” Rountree said.

The students formed groups of 12 and set up assembly lines to pack the meal of macaroni and cheese, mixed with some soy and cheese sauce with vitamins.

Rountree said 40,608 of the meals will go to Georgia Mountain Food Bank in Gainesville. The other 10,000 will go to Meals of Hope in Florida.

A group of about 20 student council members arrived at 6:30 a.m. to help set up and be trained on the process. They became the trainers for the groups of students. Each group included more than 300 students.

Rountree said the service initiative is an ambitious plan and the goal is to have every student get to participate in multiple activities.

The school also plans a tracking system for students to record community service hours through high school. The Hall County School District has a goal for freshmen and sophomores to do 40 hours of community service and for juniors and seniors to have 75 hours.

This is the first year for the school to host the weeklong project. Rountree said the school also planned events to limit the students’ loss of instructional time.

Rountree explained the students had a learning curve when they first started.

But, she said, “The students got really good at it, the more they packed.”

Pallet-sized boxes full of macaroni were parceled out in plastic containers to the assembly lines. One student put a package of the sauce in a baggie. Another held it under a funnel. Students put a cup of soy and macaroni in the bag. It was smoothed and straightened. Two students put them in a sealer and another sealed them.

A student put a tag with an expiration date on it. Another student put boxes together. Those two packed the boxes with 32 packages in it.

“You want to keep going in a circle like that,” Steve Boyett, program director for Meals of Hope, explained to student trainers. That leads to a full, but not overfull, box, he said.

Boyett called the meals “healthy, nutritious comfort food.” He noted the soy and vitamins in the sauce added to the nutrition for the meal.

Emma O’Neal, a freshman and one of the student council trainers, said she got up at 5 a.m. to be at school at 6:30 a.m.

She explained the students helped set up the assembly lines when they came in. About 15 minutes before students came in, she said, the trainers ran one of the assembly lines to be sure it worked as they thought.
“It’s been an action-packed morning to say the least,” O’Neal said.

John-Luke Iodice, a freshman, was straightening the bags to be sealed. The event was “pretty awesome,” he said.

Karina Lopez, also a freshman, weighed the bags. They should be 12.3 to 12.5 ounces, or she took some out and put it in a container next to her. Seldom were the bags under-filled.

Other projects for the week include an elementary outreach at Flowery Branch, Oakwood and McEver elementary schools on Tuesday, an on-campus cleanup Wednesday at West Hall High and West Hall Middle, thank you letters to military personnel on Thursday and a pep rally on why service matters on Friday.

Rountree is one of eight faculty members leading the service week.

Original article courtesy of Ron Bridgeman of