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Harvest for the Hungry campaign in Anne Arundel on record pace

Posted on: November 14, 2013 22:00 EST by Tim Pratt of Capital Gazette

As a line of Naval Academy midshipmen descended on an Anne Arundel County Food Bank truck Monday afternoon, Vice Adm. Mike Miller looked on.

The longer the academy superintendent waited, the more midshipmen arrived. In their hands were boxes, cans and bags of food for the less fortunate.

The Harvest for the Hungry: Kids Helping Kids campaign had come to an end, and midshipmen were loading the truck with a record amount of foodstuffs for the food bank.

The academy partnered with Anne Arundel County Public Schools for the annual campaign and, with a combined 69,000 pounds of food collected over four days, they are on pace to surpass last year’s total of nearly 165,000 pounds.

The donations are arriving just in time, said Susan Thomas, chief operations officer for the food bank.

“Our shelves were bare,” she said.

So far, the food bank has collected more than 37,000 pounds of food from the Naval Academy and nearly 32,000 pounds of food from 41 schools. The food bank still has to collect donations from approximately 80 more county schools, including South River High School, which led all schools last year with more than 18,500 pounds of food donations.

The academy also collected $3,000 in monetary donations. With $1 equaling eight pounds of food, the money will buy another 24,000 pounds for the food bank.

A food bank truck made repeated trips to the academy this week to gather the food. Only one trip was scheduled initially.

“I think this is representative of our midshipmen who take the initiative when someone says, ‘Hey, we could use some help,’” said Miller, who collected food at tailgates this fall and donated a spaghetti dinner on Monday.

“Our midshipmen heard that calling and they took charge and moved on it.”

Last year, the Academy collected 13,000 pounds of food during the campaign. Midshipmen this year took the initiative and turned it into a friendly competition between companies, seeing which could gather the most food, said Midshipman 1st Class Soon Kwon, the project leader.

“Everybody contributed in one way or another,” Kwon said. “But I don’t know if anybody expected this much food.”

Other companies, organizations and private schools also participated in the drive, including Safeway, Coldwell Banker, St. Mary’s school, Boy Scouts of America and the Anne Arundel County Association of Realtors, Thomas said.

Although the food bank is open to the public, much of that food will go back to needy children. The food bank plans to track the demographics of who receives the food this year, Thomas said. Statistics for previous years aren’t available.

Nearly 32 percent of county school students are eligible for free and reduced-price meals. That figure has nearly doubled since 2000, when only 16 percent of students were eligible for free and reduced-price meals.

The county school system has 790 students, a 20-percent increase since last year, schools spokeswoman Maneka Monk said. 

“We are so grateful to (the Naval Academy) and (volunteer Midshipmen Action Group) for everything they have done to ensure no child in Anne Arundel county goes to bed hungry,” said Teresa Tudor, senior manager of school and family partnerships for county schools.

Since 2008, use of the food bank’s on-site feeding programs has increased 133 percent, Thomas said. Pantry use increased 40 percent. The food bank’s soup kitchen has seen a 32 percent increase this year, Thomas said.

The food bank distributed more than $1.6 million in food to the needy during fiscal 2013.

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