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Summer campers harvest produce at Severn Chapel Farm for Anne Arundel food relief

Campers pick beans and peas. Kids from the Sherwood Forest community youth camp came to the Severn Chapel Farm in Millersville to pick produce to be donated to the Anne Arundel County Food Bank.
Campers pick beans and peas. Kids from the Sherwood Forest community youth camp came to the Severn Chapel Farm in Millersville to pick produce to be donated to the Anne Arundel County Food Bank. (Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette)

Severn Chapel Farm opened its fields for students from Sherwood Forest Boys & Girls Camp Thursday to harvest food that will be donated to The Light House Shelter and Anne Arundel County Food Bank.

The camp is for children in Sherwood Forest children and is an annual event that includes activities, sports, swimming and Chesapeake Bay conservation activities. Campers usually have Thursday afternoons off but decided to volunteer at the Severn Chapel Farm. It was good timing too as corn, beans and squash are at their peak point in Anne Arundel County. More than 15 students showed up to help.

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Sherwood Forest is a gated community located on the Severn River just outside Annapolis.

“It feels great to help out, and I don’t get to do this as much, but I like helping people,” said Daysha Woolfork from Meade High School. “I feel more resourceful as well.”

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Thursday’s harvest was part of long-running volunteer work students have been doing to help The Light House and the food bank since April. This is the first time they will be providing farm-fresh produce. Both institutions have been on the front-lines of providing food relief during the coronavirus pandemic.

Both the shelter and food bank provide food and other donations. Widespread unemployment caused by the pandemic has made the demand for food skyrocket.

The produce picked Thursday was loaded onto a truck and expected to make it from farm to destination within an hour.

Mary Underwood is the owner of the farm. She wanted to share food with people that needed it more than her. It is the first time the Severn Chapel Farm has held an event like this, but she plans to continue it through the seasons.

“It feels so gratifying and good inside to help out somehow,” Underwood said.

Sherwood Forest Camp Director William Moulden hopes more farms do this.

“A lot of people don’t think about giving fresh food,” Moulden said. “We all like serving and being a good citizen.”

Food giveaways around the county have spread from once or twice each week before the start of the pandemic in March, to seven or more each week. The network distributing the food includes churches, nonprofit groups and individuals.

While the demand for hunger relief has plateaued after skyrocketing as layoffs cost thousands of people their jobs, requests for food aid continues to be steady in Annapolis, Glen Burnie, and west county, said Pam Jordan, the new county human services director.

The number of individuals getting help across the county jumped from 150 a month in March to anywhere between 900 and 1,200 each week — a 400% increase, Jordan said.

The Sherwood Forest camp students got to meet County Executive Steuart Pittman at the farm, who volunteered his time to pick some produce. Pittman lives on a farm in Davidsonville.

Pittman thanked the students for volunteering and hoped it inspired them to grow food.

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“This is the kind of thing we need more of in the county, we need more people producing food on our land,” Pittman said.

While the focus was on helping others, students said they had fun too.

“It feels good and is really fun. Also, you know, you are making an impact,” Maggie Waldron from Roland Park Country School. “I am glad we came.”

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