Following the Food: Holiday Box Distributions
At this year’s Pack to Give Back event, the Maryland Food Bank invited individual supporters and local businesses to help pack holiday meals for 23,400 food-insecure families. Over the course of the next few weeks, these meals will change hands and travel from our warehouse to network partners before reaching their final destination: our clients. In the series Following the Food, the food bank will document this journey and all of the individuals who make it possible.
Pack to Give Back: The Pickup
Stella Nkwocha and Chika Monu arrived at the food bank to pick up holiday boxes for Amazing Grace Lutheran Church. They were hosting a food distribution the following day and were picking up enough turkeys and holiday boxes for 52 families.
“We are having one distribution tomorrow for Thanksgiving, and another before Christmas,” explained Chika, the Program Manager of the Food Pantry. “Tomorrow, there will be people lined up all down the road. It’s amazing.”
Chika and Stella filled out the paperwork, then followed a food bank team member as he drove the loaded forklift from the Maryland Food Bank’s warehouse marketplace to their mini van. The next few hours were spent packing their car with turkeys and boxes. The precious cargo would soon be unloaded at their church pantry, where dozens of families would gather the next day.
Pack to Give Back: The Distribution
On another side of town in Essex Maryland, Debbie Atkins and a team of dedicated volunteers prepared their pantry for a holiday food distribution at Pleasant Zion Baptist Church. This particular distribution was a plentiful one, offering turkeys and holiday boxes, as well as other nutritious foods including fresh cabbage, sweet potatoes, chicken breasts and french bread. A Maryland Food Bank truck had made two deliveries that morning; one full of produce and the other packed with turkeys and boxes.
Already, the church had filled up, the pews lined with individuals of all ages and backgrounds.
“Struggling does not have a face,” said Roger Bonner, a single father who was there to make sure his 15 year-old daughter got a good Thanksgiving dinner. “Every penny I try to save when I can. I try to make sure she doesn’t want for anything.”
Pleasant Zion had ordered enough holiday boxes to provide 152 households in the Essex community with a turkey and a Thanksgiving dinner.
“I found out about this place and got so excited, thinking to myself, wow, imagine having a turkey for Thanksgiving,” said Michael Miller, a widower and first-time pantry-goer who has struggled to get by on his carpentry, roofing, and landscaping skills. “When I walk by a store or a restaurant and I smell cheeseburgers, I’ll just sit there and breathe it in, because that’s about as close as I’m going to get. But hopefully today I’ll be able to get something more. Whatever I can get is going to be a picnic.”
The volunteers readied themselves, the pantry doors opened, and the distribution began. As each client came in, they were greeted with a cart in which a volunteer placed a turkey and a holiday box before sending them down the line to pick up other nutritious food items.
“When those people come in, we have to have the right spirit, we have to have the right smiles—we have to make them feel welcome because they’re already down,” Debbie explained. “And if they can come in through that door and get what they need, then that’s all that matters.”
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