STOW — How do you get food to hungry children around the world?
According to a group of 2- to 5-year-old kids at The Nest Early Learning Center, you could host an art show to raise money to buy food for them, or you could mail them yogurt, applesauce or a refrigerator full of ice cream.
The kids might still be working out how they can realistically help hungry children, but it’s the start of a conversation Nest founder and head teacher Anne Reiman hopes they continue having.
“I think it's really exciting to start this kind of lesson at a young age because once they're in ... high school and university, they already have this kind of background to hopefully help develop that empathy and compassion and drive to help others,” said Reiman, 31, of Silver Lake.
According to International Samaritan, an international nonprofit dedicated to raising the standard of living in garbage dump communities — where people live near garbage dumps and are completely or partially reliant on the dump for survival — 795 million people around the world live on less than $2 a day.
The hunger lessons started last month, with the children making lists of things they couldn’t afford to buy — strawberries, grapes, blueberries, chocolate, Goldfish crackers, gummies, raspberries, ice cream and cookies — and things they could for $2 a day — part of a loaf of bread, rice, green beans, oats for oatmeal, three bananas and half a jar of peanut butter.
Reiman went shopping for seven children and herself, and despite their best efforts, she went over the $2 limit, spending $2.67. The children prepared their own snacks and lunches using the food and talked about how they felt afterward.
“Food is expensive,” Reiman told five of the children attending a follow-up lesson Wednesday, when they contemplated ways to help hungry children.
Maggie Smith, 5, suggested mailing yogurt or applesauce, and Henry Lou, 5, suggested mailing ice cream. They realized it would melt on the long trip, so Maggie suggested mailing a refrigerator.
They then realized they’d need money for all of those things. Carter Louallen, 4, suggested asking their moms, dads or friends for money, while Maggie suggested hosting an art show and selling their art to raise money, similar to a show they held in February, selling their art to raise money for their school.
Future lessons will focus on helping the children learn about feasible ways to help hungry children. Reiman and the students also discuss the topic every day during snack and lunch.
"It's hard to get kids to understand that you can't just send them yogurt and applesauce in the mail,” Reiman said. “You have to teach them how you can get those resources and that we can't just go and get it from the bank. We have to earn it somehow. So that's my goal is to get them to understand the process involved in helping others.”
The Christian-based Nest opened in September in the basement of Stow’s First Christian Church, 3493 Darrow Road, where Reiman is a member. The center, which is enrolling for next year, accepts children ages 2½ to 5 and follows the Reggio Emilia approach to early learning, which includes project-based, child interest-driven learning.
During the lessons, Reiman frequently mentions Susana, a Guatemalan girl Reiman met about 10 years ago while on a mission trip in Guatemala.
Reiman and her now-husband of 7½ years, Danny, spent a year working at the missionary-based Christian American School of Guatemala after college and met Susana. They've sponsored Susana, now 12 or 13, ever since, sending her and her family money monthly.
Susana helps the children put a face to world hunger, an abstract concept that can be difficult for them to understand.
"I felt sad because Susana didn't have that much money,” Carter said during the lesson.
Reiman collaborated on the lessons with International Samaritan, where her sister, Emily Lorek, works. The organization, founded in 1994 by Father Don Vettese of Toledo after a school trip to Guatemala, has about 20 partner schools in 10 states, with eight in Ohio, including Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls.
"A big part of my philosophy is teaching character education, so developing empathy, compassion, problem-solving skills in children as young as age 2,” Reiman said. “When I heard about International Samaritan's Fast2Change campaign [which encourages people to fast on $2 per day and donate the rest of the money they would typically spend to help those living in garbage dump communities], I thought that would be a way for them to actually feel what it might be like to be a hungry child.”
Contact Emily Mills at 330-996-3334, firstname.lastname@example.org and @EmilyMills818.