WESTFIELD, NJ — Three eighth graders at Roosevelt Intermediate School have turned their independent study project into an opportunity to give back.

Margaret Ferris, Meagan Sandstedt and Sarah Kennedy put together more than 600 snack packs to be distributed to children who receive food assistance through school programs. The snack packs will be discreetly placed in children’s backpacks so they have food to eat throughout the weekend while they are not in school.

“From the start, we knew we wanted to help people who received food in school and went hungry on the weekends,” Ferris said. She said they got the idea from her mother who had read about school food assistance programs.

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“I never really thought that this was actually happening and I didn't know it was happening close to us,” Kennedy said. “It makes you feel good, giving stuff to kids who are not as lucky as you.”

The independent study program at Roosevelt allows eighth graders to design their own project and work with a high school mentor to execute it.

The project began to grow beyond their expectations when Ferris, Sandstedt and Kennedy reached out to their school principal Mary Asfendis to see if they could hold bake sales at school to raise money for the project. Other students also got involved to help assemble the snack packs during Roosevelt’s school wide community service day.

The snack packs include food products such as macaroni and cheese, cereal, milk, juice boxes, Nutrigrain bars, cans of Chef Boyardee and fruit cups. The Center for Food Action in Saddlebrook, NJ, will distribute the packs to students in need.

The whole project took a little over a month to complete, with the girls holding a bake sale once a week in March to raise enough money to buy the food. They also received some food products through donations.

“All of us want to continue doing this into high school,” Kennedy said. “We want to make this a big thing.”

Ferris, Sandstedt and Kennedy said they were grateful for the support they received from Principal Asfendis, the head of the independent study program and teacher at Roosevelt Jeffrey Robbins and Josephine Ferrigno-Stack, who helped coordinate the project.