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Ms. Ritchie's Utility Belt

Ms. Ritchie did a great job of using Heifer's myriad of resources to make Johnston Middle School's Read to Feed campaign a success! Here are some quick links:

Editor's Note: To celebrate the Read to Feed spring match, a $50,000 matching gift challenge that will match every dollar raised by Read to Feed students and classrooms around the country, we're sharing a special series of Read to Feed stories from teachers and students! This is Part 2 of a story from Ms. Mari Ritchie, a seventh grade English teacher from Johnston Middle School in Houston, Texas. They ended up raising more than $10,000! Thanks, Ms. Ritchie! Click here for Part 1: Students Fight Hunger and Poverty with the Three Ultimate Weapons: Reading, Karate and Ice Cream

Organizing Read to Feed at Johnston Middle School has allowed me to have great conversations about Heifer International.  Here are some of the questions I get most often:

How much did you raise?

Read to Feed raised $7,956. Fight-to-Feed raised $2,128.  Together we raised $10,084, which equals in our “farmyard math” 5 heifers, 10 water buffaloes, 20 pigs, 30 rabbits, and 44 chickens.  That is enough to bring a village out of poverty.  Our Johnston community saving a community of new friends on the other side of the world.    

Why Heifer?

I teach inner-city kids.  They have no concept of the Heifer tenets of sustainability and self-reliance.  They don’t understand farming, nutrition and using animals in productive and positive ways.  Heifer provides teachable moments.

What went well?

We showed some of the Heifer videos to the faculty and to the students.  They were informative and inspiring.  

You can purchase Flora and the Runaway Rooster at

We used Flora and the Runaway Rooster by John Claude Bemis in the social studies classrooms as a way to study community and spread the word to history and social studies content teachers and classes.

We connected with our Read to Feed Community Engagement Coordinator, Mrs. Kendra Penry, and she was a fantastic help! She presented to the language arts department, talked to students, formed lines of communication, answered questions and brought buttons and stickers for our celebration. 

At our closing celebration, we used giant numbers to reveal the total.  In true “The Price is Right” style, we had students arrange the numbers and rang a giant cow bell when the numbers demonstrated the correct total.  Together, we did “The Chicken Dance,” which was a fun community builder.

Students reveal the total they raised with Read to Feed. 

Our students logged over 2,200 books.  Students were excited about reading and knowing they were reading for a cause.

Two of our feeder elementary schools got excited about what we were doing and launched their own Read to Feed programs.  We saw the seed we planted get watered and begin to grow.  We know there are far-reaching effects from this experience as kids in other schools learn about ways to positively contribute to the world around them.

Our “Read to Feed Farmyard of Fame” was a great demonstration of the good we did. 

What would you do differently?

I would find a way to better launch the program.  This year, we did it in classrooms.  Teachers did it independently.   This was the first year we participated, and we learned that we should all start the program together. 

I would publicize more.  Put information on the website. Create handouts and flyers. Blog. Involve the PTO.  Involve the community.  Get the word out.  I thought the program would publicize itself.  In some ways it did; in other ways it didn’t.

Fight to Feed grew out of Johnston Middle School's Read to Feed program. 

How did participating in Heifer’s Read to Feed program impact your students?

It opened their eyes to the plight of families in situations of hunger and poverty.  It gave them a deeper appreciation of the homes they have and the food they eat.  It changed their mindset about how people live around the world.

The way the Read to Feed program is set up inspired students to read more to make their sponsors proud.

Participating in Read to Feed created pride in our students: pride that they were helping kids around the world better their lives, their nutrition, their health, and their opportunities to have education.  It was a real-world experience for our students.  They were kids helping other kids in amazing and meaningful ways.

This is the first time our school has taken on something like this. I’m proud of the students who participated and the money we raised.  I’m proud of the seeds we planted in our students and the lives we changed around the world.  I’m proud of the teachable moments that helped our students see a different way of life.  I’m proud to be part of something bigger than myself.  


Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.