Like most schools, Severn School regards spirit week as a highly anticipated time of year. Students decorate the hallways, paint class banners and meticulously plan out their themed dress-up days. For many students, the most important part of the week is the food drive.
Severn partners annually with the food pantry Serving People Across Neighborhoods, or SPAN, to help the nonprofit fulfill its mission of providing food to families in need, primarily in Severna Park, Millersville and Arnold.
While the pantry relies on donations to help surrounding communities, it has had trouble keeping its shelves stocked the past couple years. SPAN’s director of development, Michele Sabean, attributes the difficulties to the changes in habits that people have formed since the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only have prices gone up, but as more people switch to online shopping, it is less likely that they will throw items in the cart for SPAN since the cost is more glaring online.
According to Sabean, the pantry receives its fewest number of donations during the late summer months. That is where Severn’s food drive comes in.
“Wait until you see Severn School spirit week” — Sabean recalled hearing when she started with SPAN about three years ago. The school’s week-long food drive has become a reliable source of relief for the organization as it gears up for the winter, which is its busiest season. Each October, Severn’s drive helps to fill SPAN’s shelves with items ranging from toiletries to breakfast items.
Andrew Otero, the faculty advisor of the Severn Service Society (SSS), said the food drive is successful because it’s “a prideful moment for a lot of the students.” Members of the SSS spend club periods planning themed donation days that provide guidelines for students on what they can and cannot bring in before presenting the themes to the school.
After that, students spend the week fundraising and rallying support from their respective grades before heading out to stores.
“We went to Costco for bulk purchases and Aldi for canned goods to supplement,” senior Jagan Som said. “Overall, we tried to get a good variety of items for the drive.”
Seniors, especially, go all out to beat the previous year’s record. This year, the senior class donated more than 19,000 items — a record — to bring the year’s total to 28,000.
During spirit week, members of SSS stand outside on the school grounds each morning collecting items, sorting through donations and tallying totals to ensure an accurate inventory. During the school day, the items are driven to SPAN where students unload them. This year, Severn had so many items that the students formed a chain to unload them more efficiently, tossing items from person to person, from the cars all the way up to the second-floor shelves.
With donations from Severn School and other groups, SPAN provides relief for more than 585 local families each year.