Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
By Janis Fontaine
Marissa Govic’s goal is to feed hungry children. She’s using all her talents — and they’re considerable — to achieve her goal. Between academics (she’s in the seventh grade at St. Andrew’s School in Boca Raton) and family responsibilities, Marissa raised the funds for and organized a Hunger Project for the Sanford-based charity Feeding Children Everywhere.
On Feb. 3, Marissa, 12, rounded up more than 160 seventh- and eighth-grade volunteers to pack single-serving meals for hungry and malnourished families. The meals were distributed by FCE, the nonprofit founded by Don and Kristen Campbell in 2010.
FCE has distributed more than 64 million meals, 75 percent of them to people in the United States, and all the meals packed by St. Andrew’s will be distributed locally through Feeding South Florida.
Ann Haynes, division head of the middle school, worked with Marissa to organize and oversee the event.
“We provided the place, the setup, the organizational structure and the labor. FCE came in with food and supplies. They broke the kids up into 12 groups and each group had a station. First, they got a lesson on being hygienic. They all had to wear hairnets or hats. They learned about quality control and its importance, and about teamwork and that they all had to be engaged in the process to succeed,” Haynes said.
“There was catchy music that got the kids excited and there was lots of noise. We had just finished a special project week, and this was our culminating activity on a Friday afternoon. So there was lots of enthusiasm.”
The volunteers formed an assembly line, and each group had a purpose. They took dry ingredients (lentils, rice, dried vegetables, herbs and spices, and sea salt), combined them in the correct proportions in biodegradable plastic bags and sealed them. The meals are high in protein, with no artificial flavorings.
FCE had challenged the teams to pack 20,000 meals in two hours. It took the students only 90 minutes.
Marissa has been active in school food drives and with her school’s backpack program, which sends kids home with food for the weekend on Friday afternoons.
She found out about Feeding Children Everywhere as a volunteer at a Palm Beach event.
Haynes had become interested in food-packing events for charity after she attended a conference with Round Square, a network of schools that share a holistic approach to learning. “I was at a conference in California and heard about it,” Haynes said. “But there’s a hefty price involved in hosting a Hunger Project.”
To raise money for the Hunger Project, Marissa entered and won the preliminary round of the Miss Planetary Teen pageant. It recruits teens who are interested in promoting their philanthropic causes and in doing community service.
Marissa is representing her father’s home country of Croatia. Her father, Mario, is a wealth manager in Palm Beach. Her mother, Ann Marie, also of Croatian heritage, is a Realtor.
Marissa raised the money through donations and the sale of merchandise on the Miss Planetary pageant website.
She met her goal and held her event, but she’s continuing to raise money for charities that feed hungry children. In June, she’ll be competing in the Miss Planetary International teen pageant in Las Vegas.
Marissa is also promoting her new EP pop album, Trending Now, released on iTunes on Feb. 1. The music video for the first single, the title cut, was published on YouTube Feb. 9.
“I want to be a pop star,” she says.
She sings, dances, acts, and plays piano and violin. She plays tennis, swims, rollerblades and plays table tennis.
She can do a passable British accent, and has had experience on stage, television, in the recording studio, and has done live-on-the-red-carpet TV interviews for the Teen Choice Awards.
Learn more about Marissa at www.marissagovic.com.