Granting our Network Partners the Ability to do More
For decades, the Maryland Food Bank’s network of community partners have done a phenomenal job of distributing food that provides millions of meals to people in need. Even so, it takes more than food to solve the complex problem that is hunger and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to addressing it. Part of our mission is to work with our Network Partners, community-based food pantries, meal programs, shelters, and other community organizations—to identify and deploy effective strategies that help alleviate hunger in their communities.
That’s why, even before a global pandemic exponentially increased the need for charitable food assistance, we launched the Food First Capacity Grant Program in 2019 as a way to help these on-the-ground partners expand their ability to provide relief to their neighbors in need.
And since then, our grant programs and federal relief funding have had a combined impact of $35 million in local communities.
“Every time we were about to run out of food, more food became available from the food bank.”
Grants are Helping Partners do More
Nearly 200 of our Network Partners—of varying sizes and service offerings across the state—have had the cost of everything from food, freezers, and technology, to shelving, vehicles, and even a building covered by these Food First Capacity grants.
“We appreciate and thank the Maryland Food Band for taking a chance on us as a partner and granting us the opportunity to not only build a new building to house the growing pantry but to open up avenues to partner with other entities and do more for people in Elkton,” said Jenni Sparks, a manager at the Blessings Food Pantry of Brush Arbor Ministries.
And while our partners’ ability to go above and beyond is key to our neighbors’ future ability to truly thrive, making sure our partners continued to have access to food was our primary focus in the spring of 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic.
In 2022 alone, the food bank has awarded nearly $1.1 million in Capacity Grants to 89 Network Partners. As in previous grant cycles, MFB’s Regional Program Directors (RPDs) that represent Western, Southern, Northern, Eastern, and Baltimore City used a combination of data and other research from our Strategy Group as well as knowledge gleaned from site visits and conversations with partners to ensure the funding would have the most impact possible.
“We take a number of factors into account when determining where to apply these critical funds,” said Frank Ducey, MFB’s RPD for the Western Region, who also manages the project for the food bank. “Data from our Strategy Group helps identify underserved ‘Hunger Hotspots,’ and from there, we assess partners in the area and their ability to not only grow, but maintain that increased level of service going forward.”
Supporting Our Partners Statewide
With this support, Network Partners from the western mountains to the Eastern Shore and everywhere in between are preparing for the next evolution of food assistance and more:
$67,000 was awarded to 10 Network Partners, including the Hagerstown Presbyterian Church, which upgraded their decades-old stove with a new commercial model, allowing them to dramatically increase their hot meal service.
$197,000 went to 11 Network Partners, including the Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry, which used their funding to improve the neighbor experience by transforming their pantry into a space where people can choose their preferred foods.
$424,000 was awarded to 29 Network Partners, including Brush Arbor Ministries, to complete construction of a new building with walk-in cooler/freezer, with which they can serve significantly more neighbors on a regular basis.
$124,000 went to 14 Network Partners, including Salisbury Ministries, which is now able to compensate their volunteers for gas used during home delivery service.
$330,000 was awarded to 25 partners, including the New Life Food Pantry, which can be more deliberate in the types of food they offer their neighbors with a modernized warehouse space.
“We were wasting so much on the upkeep of our old stove! The kind grant from the food bank to replace it means that we can now spend that time and money to do even more to help our neighbors here in Hagerstown. Thanks MFB!” Eva Seiler, Hagerstown Presbyterian Church.
The Future of Grants from the Food Bank
These Capacity Grants have and will continue to serve a vital purpose in helping our Network Partners say “yes” to food assistance and offer neighbors a dignified experience that is hopefully the first step on their own pathway out of hunger. But they are just the beginning.
“Capacity Grants are just one of the ways that MFB brings financial resources into local Maryland communities,” said Nekeisia Booyer, MFB’s Chief Programs Officer. “Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve also used $9.125 million in federal relief funds to offer food to our Network Partners at zero cost—and those tens of millions of pounds carry a significant monetary value—that our partners simply would have not been able to manage on their own.”
And as we help Maryland move on from the pandemic, we will continue to support our statewide network of community partners as they provide assistance to our neighbors in need by addressing the root causes of hunger in the first place. In 2023, we’re dedicating $2 million to our grant-making program, which in addition to Capacity Grants, will expand to include transformational funding in new ways.
Hunger Hotspot Grants
Hunger Hotspot Grants will allow RPDs to provide start-up funds to new organizations and exisitng Network Partners in areas that are underserved, essentially helping new distribution partners get started, and existing ones expand.
Neighbor Impact Grants
Neighbor Impact Grants will fund projects that are aligned with our strategic initiatives and priorities, including efforts to eliminate the root causes of hunger (transportation, job or housing insecurity, childcare issues), most of which emanate from a lack of financial security.
“It will take more than food to end hunger in Maryland, and we will continue to invest in innovative approaches and support partnerships that have the potential to help more Marylanders become food secure and financially stable.”
Capacity Grants and other forms of distributing financial resources throughout our partner network is crucial to our ability to ensure that MFB 3.0 is successful, and the Maryland Food Bank remains at the forefront of helping our neighbors in need thrive.
Network Partners interested in finding out more about the Maryland Food Bank’s grant programs can begin their journey here.
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