Elevating Hunger Relief on the Eastern Shore
The Eastern Shore encompasses eight of the twenty-one counties we serve in the state of Maryland, and is home to nearly 45,000 individuals who are food insecure. We’re dedicated to helping them reach their full potential by expanding our hunger relief efforts in the region with a $1.5 million investment in infrastructure and operational improvements.
Maryland’s Eastern Shore boasts miles of shoreline, farmland, forests, cities, and historic towns. But hidden in the largely rural peninsula are pockets of poverty and food insecurity preventing more than 44,500 Eastern Shore residents from reaching their full potential.
The Maryland Food Bank is actively working to fix this.
But to create a hunger-free Eastern Shore, we must look beyond the immediate challenge of feeding people today and find ways to work smarter, improve efficiencies, and increase our capacity to meet the future needs of our state’s hungry residents across the bay. That’s why we’re poised to make a $1.5 million investment in reinforcing and expanding our Eastern Shore hunger-relief efforts through Food First: the Capital Campaign for the Maryland Food Bank.
Distributing More Farm-Fresh Food on the Eastern Shore
While the area provides a large percentage of the fresh produce that Marylanders across the state rely on, many households on the shore often can’t access or afford it. We are working to develop infrastructure that can more efficiently process and distribute local produce to food-insecure Eastern Shore households.
An exciting step that will help us do this is building a 2,400-square-foot cold storage room at our warehouse in Salisbury.
The cold storage room will not only help us store additional quality produce we glean and contract grow from 60 partner farms, it will also extend the shelf life of produce and perishable product, reducing potential food waste. This, too, will help increase the amount of produce we can distribute through our busy season, from mid-July through mid-October.
Thanks to the generosity of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and other Food First donors, we will be able to distribute more nutrient-rich, locally-grown produce, which will help us move toward the development of healthier Eastern Shore communities.
Growing to Meet the Growing Need
We’re proud of our efficient, innovative hunger-relief programs and initiatives. But as the demand for these programs has increased over the last five years, so have our food-distribution efforts. We’ve nearly doubled these efforts from 3.2 million pounds of food in FY 2012 to nearly 6 million pounds of food in FY 2016 on the Eastern Shore alone.
Our Salisbury branch has reached a point where we cannot manage further growth without reinforcing our current infrastructure and operations.
We anticipate capital investments made possible through Food First funding — from a new cold storage room and a new ventilation system to additional racking — will help us distribute 40 percent more food to Eastern Shore residents in the coming years.
That’s 2.5 to 3 million additional pounds of food each year!
And by making other small changes to our warehouse, like installing LED lighting, we will reduce and re-route funds spent on overhead costs to distribute more meals to more remote, rural areas on the shore.
Increasing Volunteer Capacity
To expedite the processing of sorting donated food, we’re re-arranging the layout of our warehouse and are installing a 54-foot-long conveyor belt for volunteers to use while sorting donated products.
“We’re transforming the volunteer experience by creating new space in the warehouse and more opportunities for individuals to engage in our work,” said Jennifer Small, Eastern Shore managing director.
“By actively engaging more people in our cause, we can really strengthen the regional movement to end hunger on the shore.”
In our current configuration, we have to shut down half the warehouse to accommodate large groups of volunteers. Even so, we benefitted from volunteers contributing 3,420 hours in FY 16. If we had to hire full-time staff to accomplish those tasks, it would have cost us $82,558. Thanks to their dedication, we redirected that funding to help us move food to our neighbors in need.
With an improved volunteer experience and a larger volunteer space, we have the potential to harness the invaluable work of twice as many volunteers to further our mission.
Strengthening Our Base of Community Support on the Eastern Shore
Historically, the shore branch has relied on financial support from central Maryland. In fact, nearly 50 percent of funding for our efforts on the shore comes from community leaders outside of the region.
We can change this dynamic. We’re working hard to identify and strengthen support from Eastern Shore organizations and community leaders through the creation of a Regional Leadership Council. This engaged group of connectors, influencers, politicians, business representatives, non-profit partners, philanthropists, and volunteers from throughout the Eastern Shore will help us strengthen our work in the area through advocacy and fund-raising efforts.
We are also actively looking to form new relationships with retailers, wholesalers, and farms located in the eight Eastern Shore counties. New partnerships will help us procure and distribute more perishable food and shelf-stable groceries throughout the region.
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