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Over Food, Communities Grow

This week: installment one of three on ­striking out hunger

Students at Davidsonville Elementary School are learning that not everyone has as much as they do. They are collecting food and raising awareness to make “the best Harvest for the Hungry Campaign ever,” says fifth-grader and student government president Julia Cobb, back center-right.

Reading Learning to Care and Give, Bob Melamud’s story for this week’s paper, kindles a spark of envy in me.
    Six-year-old Katie Asher is just beginning to understand the meaning of caring and giving, Melamud writes. Every morning she drops a can of food into the collection boxes at Davidsonville Elementary, where she is a first-grader.
    By high school, he continues, students like Tina Depietro, who built a food-can sculpture for South River High, embrace the values of empathy, giving and volunteerism.
    Was your education this community-building, not to mention downright fun?
    Way back in first grade, were caring and giving as much a part of your school day as double-ruled paper for capital and lower case letters?
    Certainly by college Annapolis mayor Josh Cohen had learned these values. At St. John’s College — if not earlier — he would have joined a collegial, values-driven society.
    Like a baseball player up to bat, mayoral challenger Mike Pantelides would have had three chances at learning the power of working together to achieve bigger goals. Pantelides was raised and remains Greek Orthodox, he told me in our interview for his half of this week’s feature story, Racing Down the Home Stretch. But, he said, “I was sent to Jewish preschool, Lutheran middle school and Catholic high school.”
    Would either man want to be mayor — let alone endure the marathon of campaigning — had he not learned along the way to give himself to causes greater than himself and his family?
    My envy is sparked because my school days were a little different. Both Catholic and public elementary schools resembled the society the marooned boys create in William Golding’s Halloween-scary novel Lord of the Flies. At my Catholic girls’ high school, the point of values education was learning to say no, to both boys and Lutheran heresy.
    So like Melamud, I’m impressed at how and what our early 21st century kids are learning. Hands-on, by way of food, they’re discovering that what they do shapes the world we share. Their lessons are reinforced and cheered by one another and by teachers and by principals who, I pray, bear as little resemblance to Sister Teresa Martin as that formidable figure did to the Little Flower of Jesus. They’re all teammates, all playing to win the game of growing up healthy, sane and giving.
    “Doing this story was life-affirming,” Melamud told me. “It was great to talk to responsible, motivated kids who already have embraced the values that have made our nation great.”
    Well gosh. Why end a winning streak? (I wish my St. Louis Cardinals could say the same.)
    Melamud — who came to Bay Weekly just last month, seeking to write about food — is scoring. So we’re keeping the retired aerospace engineer and unpretentious gourmet in the game.
    With Thanksgiving already on our minds, we’re expanding his exploration of education to end hunger to a three-part series, starting with this issue. Next week, Melamud will introduce us to End Hunger in Calvert’s impressive new school for culinary training. November 14, he’ll return to South River High School to learn how students are working in partnership with local potters, restaurateurs and you to fill the empty bowl of hunger.
    Next week, as the season of thanks and feasting advances, we’ll dedicate to food with pared stories (by utility-playing Melamud) on how to end the Thanksgiving meal and, for Veterans Day November 11, a restaurant that honors people who have served.
    Between now and then, don’t eat so much Halloween candy that you spoil your sweet tooth.
    Next week, too, we’ll be able to report the Election Day news of who voters chose as the next mayor of Annapolis.
    For now, I hope that wherever you live, you’ll enjoy our story on how the mayor and challenger, Cohen and Pantelides, are racing into the stretch.

P.S. What are your Thanksgiving traditions? I’m eager to hear about your customs, at the table and beyond, ­especially your favorite desserts and your recipe for how to re-whet sated appetites for dessert. Write to ­editor@bayweekly.com.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com