Senior Irene Ryan in five years has helped feed 7,500 families three meals with a program she started in seventh grade for Gifted Education for Middle Schoolers (GEMS) in order to gain service hours required for the class.
“I decided with help of my family, and the most encouragement from my mom, to make something that would be beyond those eight hours,” Ryan said. “So that was the start of Webster Feeds.”
Ryan also partners with Operation Food Search, a local agency that seeks to “to nourish and educate our neighbors in need to heal the hurt of hunger,” according to its mission statement.
Ryan partners with Operation Food Search in order to have a way to distribute the food to those in need.
“During our events they give us bins to fill and the next morning they send trucks to pick them up,” Ryan said.
Operation Food Search also has an online donation option.
“The online donation is great because they get their food in wholesale, so what you and I could buy for a dollar, they can buy for 50 cents, “Ryan said.
Webster Feeds has collected 4,300 pounds and $6,400 in cash donations in the five years of its food drives.
Webster Feeds has two events coming up. The first event is a “happy hour” at Milagro in Old Webster on Feb. 3.
“Basically if you bring in three cans you get three free tacos, you can bring more but three is the limit on tacos,” Ryan said. “Usually this is the most successful because it is a win-win for us and the restaurant, so they have always helped out,” Ryan said.
“Some of my past teachers come out to this event, like Stephanie Gavin, the GEMS teacher at Hixson, and Edward (Ted) Ibur, a sixth grade English teacher,” Ryan said. “It is cool to see them come out and support us.”
The other event that Webster Feeds does is a “Super Bowl Sunday” food drive at Schnucks by Hixson Middle School.
“Before the addition we used to sit out in the cold which was terrible, but we also got more people to donate,” Ryan said. “They were like, ‘Oh look at these miserable kids. Better give them some cans.’”
“I was super impressed by her dedication and problem-solving, especially not receiving full support for collecting cans at school.” Gavin said. “Irene was (and is) an excellent student, always showing great empathy for others less fortunate. Webster Feeds, which I imagine will carry on after she is away to college, will always be a great legacy of her compassion.”
“They had no personal gain in maintaining this program other than helping those less fortunate,” Ibur said. “With the negativity that sometimes feels so rampant on social media—it is easy to be cynical and critical of things going on all around us. When I see young people launch a program like Webster Feeds, it heartens me that good will and kindness ultimately wins the day.”
“To see the community come together and support this cause has been amazing,” Ryan said. “Hopefully since this is my last year, I can get the school involved also.”