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  • (L-R) Severna Park Middle School SGA members Fletcher Port, Sophia Urrea and Nick Patrick went from room to room collecting cans during the Harvest for the Hungry food drive.
    Photo by Zach Sparks
    (L-R) Severna Park Middle School SGA members Fletcher Port, Sophia Urrea and Nick Patrick went from room to room collecting cans during the Harvest for the Hungry food drive.

Can It, Will Ya! Food Drive Helps Kids Silence Hunger

Zach Sparks
View Bio
November 3, 2017

The heart of a blue whale weighs about 1,000 pounds. An empty 6-by-12-foot U-Haul cargo trailer is 1,920 pounds. Crocodiles can weigh up to 2,300 pounds. What is heavier than each of those things?

Severna Park Middle collected 3,111 pounds of food for needy families during Anne Arundel County Public Schools’ food drive in 2016, yet they weren’t satisfied. They want to extinguish hunger on a larger scale, a goal requiring schoolwide collaboration.

“From over the years, I’ve noticed a lot of people really do care out there and a lot of people who want to help,” said Fletcher Port, an eighth-grader who serves as president of the Severna Park Middle Student Government Association. “It’s a big community effort.”

Severna Park Middle was also the top school district-wide in 2016, finishing ahead of Severna Park High (2,995 pounds), and Benfield (2,718), Folger McKinsey (2,695), Belvedere (2,504) and Jones (2,426) elementary schools.

As for 2017, the top Severna Park Middle School homeroom each week received a prize: a pizza party or a Chick-fil-A Day, and teachers encouraged kids to get in the spirit with special themes. For Keep It Clean Halloween, youth wore black and orange, donating soap, shampoo or conditioner, and toothpaste. Meat the Need Day encouraged everyone to donate canned tuna, SPAM, ham or chicken.

Severna Park High School set a lofty goal for 2017: 100,000 pounds or approximately $12,500. With only a few days remaining in the food drive, Key Club adviser Beth Meadows said the school generated more than $13,000. Contributing to that total was a string of fundraisers at Chick-fil-A, Five Guys, FroYo House and Ledo Pizza.

“We want to honor Bruce Blackman this year because he was so dedicated to Harvest for the Hungry when he was here as a teacher,” Meadows emphasized. “Our collections have already been record-breaking for us. The class that collects the most money will win an award to keep in their classroom.”

As committee leader for the food drive, senior Maile Johnson oversaw the effort with help from peers Chloe Wright and Allison Chang.

“This project means so much to me,” Johnson said. “I have always thought that it would be a cool idea to run a major project to make a difference, and Harvest is that project. This project actually makes a huge difference and could really help out a family in need. I think that Chloe, Allison and myself have done really well in making our school realize how much of an impact we can make.”

Johnson explained that the students spread that awareness by pushing teachers to get involved, creating a promotional video and designing flyers for restaurant week.

At Magothy River Middle School, kids brought granola bars, oatmeal and cereal for Wake-Up Wednesday. Thanksgiving Thursday yielded items common to the annual holiday. Faculty and staff aimed to have 1,000 cans.

“We created an advisory lesson that focuses on the statistics regarding child hunger in the United States and how being food insecure adversely affects children,” said Cate Schenk, a school counselor. “Our hope is that all Magothy River students learn the importance of working together to end hunger.”

By holding a friendly schoolwide competition, Benfield Elementary aimed to collect 3,000 pounds of nonperishable goods. The top three classes were promised a pizza party, popcorn and movie party, or extra recess.

“Students learn not only about the food insecurity that so many people face today, but also the powerful message of how important it is to help others when possible and the wonderful feeling of accomplishment it brings to you to know you’ve impacted others in a positive way,” said Benfield Elementary counselor Cynthia Wrye. “The kids feel so good bringing in even just one canned good, knowing they are helping other kids and adults in our area who are struggling and are without the very things we take for granted.”

Belvedere set a goal of 1,000 pounds, working its way toward that goal with a spirit week from October 23-28. On Mix and Match Day, kids donated odd pairs, like peanut butter and tuna. On Souper Bowl Day, students brought soup, stew and chili while donning apparel representing their favorite sports team.

School counselor Kimberly Perillo said the drive teaches compassion, empathy, citizenship, and leadership, and that daily themes kept kids focused on the goal.

“Some student groups make posters to help promote the event,” she said a week prior to the conclusion of the food drive. “We have daily facts on hunger the first week and daily updates on our progress through our student-led, televised morning announcements. In addition, our PTA promotes the food drive on their website. They also ask every family coming to the fall festival bring a non-perishable food item to increase participation.”

At Jones Elementary, first-graders topped the fundraising totals after two weeks of collection. As a school, Jones sought to raise $2,000 and collect 1,000 pounds of food. Incentives included extended recess, lunch outside and reading time.

To incentivize the effort, Jones tailored fundraising around several themes: golf challenge, math fun, Jones spirit and Helping Hands Week, when children purchased hand shapes to adorn over the school walls.

Nonperishable items from all schools are donated to the Anne Arundel County Food and Resource Bank. In 2016, the food bank provided emergency food to about 40,000 families, feeding 120,000 people; one-third of them were children.

Not only are schools competing for bragging rights and for the pure joy of giving, but the top school also earns $650 toward books, with second- through fifth-place garnering $300 for school books.

The food drive concluded October 27. To learn more, visit

“It’s really nice to know you’re helping so many people and their lives are going to be improved,” said Severna Park Middle School eight-grader and SGA assistant advisor Mia Putzi.

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