Edward Elliott, a first-grader at Pershing Hill Elementary School, said he learned in class what it means to have empathy for another person.
“It’s standing in somebody’s shoes, being a friend and being thoughtful,” the 6-year-old said.
Erica McCabe, the school’s counselor, said students are learning an important lesson in character development by participating in the Kids Helping Kids Food & Funds Drive.
The Kids Helping Kids anti-hunger campaign, managed by the Maryland Food Bank, encourages students in Maryland schools to donate nonperishable food and funds to help feed children across the state.
The campaign, which began Oct. 2 and runs through Oct. 27, is made possible through a partnership with the Maryland State Department of Education.
Donations from schools in Anne Arundel County go directly to the Anne Arundel County Food Bank.
Last year, more than 400 schools took part in the anti-hunger campaign and contributed more than 415,000 pounds of food and $110,000. Of this, the county collected 176,418 pounds of food and $93,540, according to the campaign’s website.
McCabe said participating in the campaign “teaches children a sense of community, service and philanthropy.”
“This is vital,” McCabe said. “It is our own piece of social justice.”
During the first week in November, the Anne Arundel County Food Bank will collect the nonperishable donations.
McCabe, who oversees the food collections at Pershing Hill, said each classroom has a box for donations. Every morning, students place their donations in the box. At the end of the week, the school’s custodial staff gathers the donations from all the classrooms and stores them for the final collection in November.
“When children are deprived and hungry, they can’t learn,” McCabe said. “This allows our students to help kids in their own community.”
First-grader Kristina Angela said she likes to help other children because “it’s important to be nice.”
“You give to people who don’t have so they can be happy,” Kristina said. “They will have food now so they can live.”
In addition to the Kids Helping Kids campaign, Pershing Hill will participate in other character development efforts, such as National Kindness Week in November and an initiative to provide Thanksgiving food baskets for school families in need.
“We are teaching kids the importance of giving back, and you can’t learn it in a textbook or in a classroom,” McCabe said. “You learn by doing. That’s why character development is so vital.”