Food drive to link with school service

Students to be asked to gather more for Maryland's hungry

Goal is 250,000 pounds

Classroom learning to focus on issues related to hunger

July 21, 1999|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

Officials and volunteers who gather food for the state's hungry outlined yesterday an ambitious plan to collect more food in schools, set up new pantries at Maryland's neediest schools and link classroom learning with the issue of hunger.

Larry Adam Jr., founder of Baltimore-based Harvest for the Hungry programs, said he plans to get 250 schools in Maryland to collect 250,000 pounds of food in October and November -- the largest effort to date for a program called Kids Helping Kids. That would be 100,000 more pounds than were collected in 213 schools last year.

The stepped-up campaign is designed to boost two programs: Maryland's community-service requirement for students and state food drives, which are struggling to keep pace with need.

Bill Ewing, executive director of the Maryland Food Bank, said he must add a million pounds of food to his total each year for the next five years to serve Marylanders with a dire need for food.

Despite the booming economy, clients continue to stream into soup kitchens -- some of them former welfare recipients who are working but poor. Ewing said donations from the food industry have declined because improved technology has meant a reduction in the stocks of surplus food.

"This effort today is flat-out the most important thing we have going for us to meet this goal," Ewing said. "It gets kids thinking about the fact there are hungry people who are less fortunate than they. The insightful part of this is to have the schools be self-sufficient."

It is also designed to help students perform better on standardized tests, control behavior and attend school more regularly. "If kids don't have basic food, they can't get very good grades," Adam said.

Maryland offices of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, where Adam is a senior vice president, will provide up to 50 volunteers for the effort this year as part of a pledge to America's Promise, the nationwide volunteer initiative headed by retired Gen. Colin L. Powell.

Need for pantries

Fourteen Baltimore schools have established food pantries through the Maryland Food Bank, Ewing said. The Kids Helping Kids initiative could help establish up to 10 more, depending on whether school administrators decide they want or need pantries.

Five of those schools could be in Baltimore -- Westport, Lakeland and Morrell Park elementary and middle schools and magnet high school Southside Academy in southwestern Baltimore, and Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in West Baltimore. Five others are in Prince George's County. All are affiliated with Communities in Schools, a nonprofit organization that works with schools on improvement projects.

In some schools, the food drive might include use of a curriculum to educate students about the causes and effects of hunger, said Luke F. Frazier, executive director of the Maryland Student Service Alliance.

75 hours of service

In 1992, Maryland became the first state in the nation to make volunteering a requirement for graduation. Students must complete 75 hours of service between sixth grade and senior year, and the goal is to include academic study of the issues behind volunteering, Frazier said.

"Having kids perform their service learning requirement at the same time they're participating in Kids Helping Kids would be a great way to accomplish a couple things at the same time," he said.

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