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December 10th, 2012 |
On November 5, 2012 I visited the Maryland Food Bank (MFB) in Baltimore and toured its facilities. My tour guide made me feel incredibly welcome and informed me that they offer tours to anyone interested in being part of the experience. As I walked through the facilities, I immediately noticed how happy the volunteers and employees looked; they all seemed to take so much pride in what they do and the difference they make in the community. I even met an incredibly dedicated man who volunteers several days a week and has a walk-in freezer with a plaque named after him in his honor. MFB is the type of place where everyone knows each other by name and every job is perceived as vital to the organization.
I was struck by both the attractiveness and large scale of the facility – the MFB can accommodate a substantial number of donations and purchased food items to meet the demands of organizations that feed the needy. The tour educated me about the necessity of this service and gave me hope about the future for people struggling to just survive. The visit also humbled me and rewarded me with a wealth of information on hunger; during the tour I felt an immense sense of purpose to be part of the mission to overcome it.
The faces of hunger will surprise you. While the homeless continue to be the most visible, many who need food assistance now are middle class families, the elderly and the working poor. The high cost of living in Maryland has left many residents grappling to make ends meet.
To help provide assistance to the many hungry people in our communities, the MFB’s services provide food to the needy in every county throughout Maryland except Montgomery County and Prince George’s County. In just the MFB’s service area, the problem of hunger is immense; more than 460,000 people do not know how they will get their next meal. A whopping 39% of those in the MFB’s service area are children under the age of 18 and 44% of them live above the threshold for government assistance and therefore cannot receive those benefits. The people in our communities battling hunger have nowhere else to turn except a local soup kitchen or food bank. Each year, there are 79 million meals missed – equivalent to 100 million pounds of food.
Emergency food assistance providers such as the MFB bridge the gap to feed the needy when other programs cannot. For example, the MFB has a Summer Food Service Program that feeds children who receive reduced price meals during the school year but have nowhere to turn to during the summer months. The summer program provides breakfast and lunch to children enrolled in summer enrichment programs, as well as consistent access to healthy food to ensure that children return to school well-nourished and ready to succeed.
The MFB also gives a fresh start to low-income students while using donated food to provide healthy meals to the hungry. Its free, 12-week culinary training program, called FoodWorks, teaches these students hands-on training and comprehensive job readiness skills to prepare for their job search. In 2011, FoodWorks produced 260,000 meals using perishable food that may have otherwise spoiled.
To ensure a steady supply of nutritious food to offer individuals and families in need, the MFB started the Farm-to-Food Bank Program in 2011. The program is a statewide network of 51 farms and organizations in Maryland that have pledged to donate fresh fruits and vegetables to the MFB on a regular basis.
To contribute to the effort to fight hunger, Sandy Spring Bank has partnered with the MFB. Through our partnership, we are spreading the word about ending hunger through personal interactions and social media. We encourage you to join us in feeding the less fortunate people in our area. It’s easy – just ‘like’ Sandy Spring Bank on Facebook and ‘share’ the weekly posts from our Share a Post, Share a Meal campaign, and we will contribute 20 meals to hungry people on your behalf. It is phenomenal how a small amount of effort can go a long way in providing nutritious meals to those in need. Together, we can all make our communities a better place to live and work.
Assistant Vice President, Branch Manager