Spring Break ended this week for students in Howard County, but not before a handful of students from several Columbia high schools volunteered their time, energy and smarts toward helping end hunger in their neighborhoods.
Seven students from , , and high schools worked for several hours Monday stacking canned foods for a display at in hopes to raise hunger awareness and funds for the Howard County Food Bank.
"We have all our lives to go on these little vacations, but it's our senior year and you want to end with something really positive," said Swathi Narayan, 18, who will soon graduate from Oakland Mills.
The student group, called Food for Tomorrow, is a student-led program which organizes events designed to raise awareness that people are struggling to put food on their families' tables right here in Howard County.
Upwards of 20,000 people in Howard County are likely to need food assistance, according to a Maryland Hunger Solutions report released in 2010.
According to Howard County Councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty, the students worked nearly around the clock in the councilwoman's office–during their Spring Break–to design and prepare the food structures.
"One of the things people need to know is that hunger does exist in Howard County," Sigaty told Patch.
Sigaty said this project taught the students how to deal with the responsibility of helping others, from designing the physical structures to asking businesses for donations.
"It's very scary to go out and ask somebody for money–even when you believe wholeheartedly in your project. It's very very hard to go do that," Sigaty said.
Bita Dayhoff, president of the Howard County Community Action Council, has seen first-hand the increasing need for food assistance. Dayhoff says requests for help to the Howard County Food Bank have increased threefold in less than three years.
"Just two years ago, we were serving about 6,000 individuals," said Dayhoff. "Last year…we served 16,000 individuals."
The structures went up Monday morning on the first-floor level of the Mall in Columbia, and will be deconstructed and donated to the Howard County Food Bank at the end of the week.
"Times are tough for many of our neighbors and Food For Tomorrow fills a great need in the Howard County area," said mall spokesperson Michelle José.