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Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News
Ruby Bates eats her meager meal of beans and rice as Simon Thomas looks on at the Open Classroom.

Only one compartment was full on fourth-grader Anna Boyes' Thanksgiving lunch tray Wednesday.

And the portion was not much bigger than her small 9-year-old hand.

While the majority of Utah school students were feasting on stuffing, turkey, mashed potatoes and pie on the last school day before Thanksgiving, the students at a Utah charter school had a meal equivalent to those common in Third World countries.

In an attempt to help the students understand how fortunate they are, the school opted to forgo a traditional Thanksgiving lunch and instead served a meal based on what people in many nations survive on every day.

"This helps us show compassion for people who get no more than this every day," said Isabelle Adams, 9.

The children were given meager servings of rice and beans — no chocolate milk, apple or oatmeal cookie.

"It tastes OK, but I know I am going to be hungry," said Boyes. "It's really sad, and I don't think it fair that there are people who get to eat a lot of food and some people hardly get any."

That is exactly what school leaders say they wanted the students to realize.

"We want them to have empathy and a deeper sense of gratitude about the fact that they live in the land of plenty," said Jeff Herr, principal of Open Classroom, a charter school in Salt Lake City.

"We also wanted to make sure they understand they have a lot to be thankful for," he said.

The event was the brainchild of third- and fourth-grade teacher Denise Mavor, who said the best way for kids to understand is to experience.

"Having them experience a world meal and hear about what's happening around the world, (where) people go hungry, and what we can do to help them, is powerful," Mavor said.

The students were allowed to choose the recipients of the lunch proceeds from the meal. The money will be donated to the Utah Food Bank to help the hungry in Utah's communities.

E-mail: terickson@desnews.com