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4th grade students at The Park School of Baltimore bag food for Viva House every month

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Posted at 5:00 AM, Dec 22, 2023

BALTIMORE — A small army of fourth grade students at the Park School of Baltimore load up cars with bags of food with a smile on their face and a pep in their step.

"I think by the end of fourth grade, they could all get jobs at a grocery store, they’re so good at packing bags," said Jenny Harbold, a fourth grade teacher at the Park School.

The students do this routine each month. It's their job to continue the decades-long tradition of providing meals to Viva House, a food pantry in Southwest Baltimore.

"It's a really big part of our curriculum. We study homelessness and they all know about food insecurity and food deserts," said Harbold.

Harbold has been working with Viva House since she started working at the Park School 26 years ago. She said in the beginning of the year, the fourth grade students take a field trip to Viva House to meet its founders, Willa Bickham and Brendan Walsh, and learn more about the organization.

"I think fourth grade is a magical year when they really start to think about other people and it’s the perfect time for them to work on a community service project that’s so meaningful," she said.

The students are responsible for collecting food donations, sorting the items in their pantry at school and packing the bags. Harbold said they have a specific list to follow and must make sure each bag has an equal amount of food.

And this month, the students added a little extra to the bags: homemade holiday cards and candy canes.

The partnership is about taking the classroom beyond the walls of the Park School and giving the students hands-on lessons of what it means to care about others and make a meaningful impact on the world around them.

"Park's mission is to create engaged citizens," said Matt Doyle, the lower school principal. "[The students] get really inspired by going to Viva House in the fall and they carry that inspiration through the year."

The Baltimore-area Chick-fil-A restaurants, which sponsor Everyday Heroes, distributed warm meals to the clients of Viva House this week, in support of the work being done by the fourth grade class at the Park School.