Building Back Up Boxes to Meet the COVID-19 Need
As the only nonprofit built to feed hungry Marylanders statewide, we took quick and decisive action in the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak to ensure that we could manage the inevitable influx of people forced into food insecurity due to the virus’ far-reaching economic and sociological effects.
Part of our strategy to cope with the rising demand involved developing Back Up Boxes, a “grab and go” 30-pound supply of shelf-stable foods that could easily be transported, stored, and distributed quickly wherever needed in our state.
Initially, our passionate volunteers worked multiple shifts, packing nearly 1,400 boxes each day in our Baltimore warehouse. But with increasing pressure to pack and make even more boxes available, we quickly reached capacity, and had to expand our operations to an off-site facility.
“Thanks to our relationship with Merritt Properties, we were able to secure a secondary warehouse nearby, which has allowed us to nearly double production of these Back Up Boxes to make sure that our neighbors in need have enough to eat throughout this difficult time,” said Rick Condon, MFB’s senior vice president of operations.
Shortly after opening the off-site facility, we received a call from Columbia Container, a Baltimore-based manufacturer. The company’s president, Brendan Moynihan saw a way that they could help us meet the skyrocketing demand.
“During a conversation with our supply partner, CorrChoice, we agreed it was critical to see beyond our own situations and focus on how we could reach out and help. I immediately thought of the Maryland Food Bank and the vital role they play every day. It was easy to see they are needed now more than ever.”
Within days, Moynihan’s company sent enough corrugated boxes to the site to help us distribute nearly 120,000 Back Up Boxes. This not only helped us ensure a constant supply of nourishment to hungry Marylanders at a critical time, but it also saved the food bank almost $100,000, which will allow us to feed even more of our neighbors in need.
Opening the additional warehouse both freed up critical space in our Baltimore facility for day-to-day operations, and allowed us to create a number of temporary, full-time positions for the foreseeable future.
Elizabeth Sopel had been working in the food industry at two Foreman Wolf restaurants – Bar Vasquez and Johnny’s restaurants – when COVID-19 hit.
“Both of my jobs were closed down because of the Coronavirus and I was sent home and laid off – the first week was really rough” said Elizabeth. “Then, an email went out to the company (with this opportunity); I read it and headed down!”
Her restaurant background was of immediate interest to MFB’s Tim Regan.
“The work is pretty simple, but we think that restaurant employees are great workers to do this because you have to be on your feet all day and that’s what’s expected when you’re working in a restaurant.”
Sopel is one of the 30 employees currently helping us meet the increased need by packing canned proteins, pasta, pasta sauce, canned vegetables and fruits, and other nutritious items into a Back Up Box.
She is thrilled to find a way to be able to continue using food as a vehicle to connect with people.
“Food doesn’t just bring families together. It’s nourishment. It gives you the ability to go through your day-to-day tasks and to take care of the people that you need to take care of.”
Sopel had seen news stories about arrangements being made to protect people from their electricity being shut off or being evicted, but she had been wondering how people would be able to eat, and knew this was the right opportunity for her.
“We’re giving away food to people who are not able to buy it on their own – it makes you feel really good at the end of the day to know that, you are helping the people who really need it.”
Help Elizabeth and the Maryland Food Bank pack more Back Up Boxes and continue to meet the rising need as more and more Marylanders feel the effects of COVID-19.
Maryland Food Bank’s COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Efforts
Just like COVID-19 has changed the world, we’ve changed the way we’re feeding Maryland. Our network partners, corporate supporters, and staff have really stepped up to ensure all Marylanders have enough to eat during this unprecedented crisis.
We’re making sure kids have access to contactless Grab & Go meals to replace school meals and school pantry visits; offering hard-working families and individuals fresh produce and shelf stable goods via drive-though food distributions; and ensuring homebound seniors have easier access to nutritious foods where they live.
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We’re packing 30lbs of nutritious foods into Back Up Boxes