Elementary student fights childhood hunger at school

AUSTIN (KXAN) – An elementary student in southwest Austin wants to end hunger among his classmates.

Ian McKenna, a 5th grader at Oak Hill Elementary School, is a part of the Gardening Club that meets weekly. With his friends and classmates, they plant fruits and vegetables in gardens at their school.

“It’s just so we can learn about it and so we know how to,” Ian said.

But gardening isn’t just fun for them. The garden helps feed students at Oak Hill Elementary whose families may not be able to afford healthy meals when kids come home.

Ian’s principal, Cathryn Mitchell, said Ian has a heart to help others.

“He’s got a great heart and very concerned about the community and students in need,” Mitchell said. “That was his intention for all of this, to provide some type of service to those who needed it.”

Ian took it upon himself to apply for a grant. He was only one of 100 students in the country to receive the $500 grant to create a “Giving Garden” providing fresh fruits and vegetables to families in need and raising awareness of local hunger.

“[I'm] so very proud of Ian that he would, you know, just take it upon himself to search out a grant to even write or to look for and then to put it all together and then write it,” Mitchell said.

His friends got on board quickly with his idea to help others. Some spent an entire Saturday at the school a few weeks ago to help build his garden.

“It’s really fun and it makes you feel really good because it makes you feel like you’re helping everybody else that needs food,” Gabrielle Poovala, Ian’s classmate, said.

As Ian moves on to middle school next year, the gardening tradition at Oak Hill Elementary won’t go away; the Gardening Club has students from second through fifth grades.

On Thursday, the fifth graders taught first graders how to garden.

“I think it’s a good idea so that they know in the future and can help the world with it too,” Ian said.

As students put their plants in a greenhouse, they hope they’ll grow.

“We’re hoping that we get lots of fruits and vegetables for everybody to be able to come here and get food if they can’t pay for it,” Alanna Araguz, Ian’s classmate, said.

“I’m helping not just my friends but the whole school and I did something I didn’t think I could,” Ian said.

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