Holiday Meals Help Bring the Holiday Feels for Neighbors Statewide
“Oh, you know you can’t go to the store anymore because the prices are so high. There’s nothing you can do, except do without…”
It’s just two weeks before Thanksgiving, and those are the words of Ellie L., who patiently waits in her car, behind hundreds of others forming a serpentine pattern stretching across the asphalt of the Taneytown Shopping Center.
Ellie and other neighbors are here with the same goal in mind: finding a way to make ends meet at the end of the year when hunger just hits harder.
In this part of Maryland, MFB Network Partner Westminster Rescue Mission is handing out hope, today in the form of holiday meals—a turkey paired with a box packed with all the traditional fixings like stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, mashed potatoes, and more.
As she waited, Ellie talked about why she was in the line.
“See, I’m retired. I’m 78 years old, OK? Right now, I’m three years short of getting Social Security because you need a total of 40 quarters of work, I would need 12 more,” she explained.
Even with an improving job market, it’s tough for someone in Ellie’s situation to find work.
“I had a severe eye problem, and ultimately lost vision on this side—do you know how much the drops they said I needed cost? It was more than $200 each month, so that’s where my food money went—and I can tell you that eye drops do not fill up your stomach,” Ellie added.
When Ellie finally made it to the front of the line, she became energized.
“I was praying on a way to have Thanksgiving, and when I called Westminster, oh lord, they said ‘C’mon out, we have turkeys for Thanksgiving, and maybe a ham for Christmas’ and I am just so excited because these things cost a lot of money, which I don’t have,” she said.
It was hard to tell if Ellie was more excited about the single holiday, or the days after.
“We’re a much smaller family now, so I’ll freeze some of this and it’ll last us for a good long time!”
Further on down the line, Gina C. shared her own experience facing challenges similar to Ellie.
“It was a little hard for me to come out here, I always thought these lines were for ‘other people,’ but its Thanksgiving. We’ve always had nice traditions, but this is the year we just couldn’t do it ourselves. Even with my disability and my husband being self-employed, medical bills and inflation are just too much”
And much like Ellie, Gina found the volunteers helping to distribute holidays meals were welcoming, removing the stigma that is a barrier to many seeking assistance.
“This is not what I thought it was going to be. The people from Westminster Rescue here are just so nice, and I am thankful that they are looking out for us fellow community members. This holiday food means we can have ALL the kids and grandkids over for Thanksgiving,” she said.
Local Assistance, Statewide Impact
The reality is that Ellie and Gina’s stories are not uncommon, and they’re not just happening in Taneytown. They are happening all across Maryland, one of the wealthiest states in the nation.
Despite signs of an increasingly strong economy, roughly 36% of Marylanders reported experiencing financial difficulties in late October, which is 3 points higher than during the same period last year (January-October 2022). And that is but one of several data points that help illustrate what it’s like to face hunger in Maryland.
But even as more than 1 in 3 Maryland adults are having difficulties paying for usual expenses, the holidays were a little brighter for tens of thousands of individuals and families that were able to pick up holiday meals from MFB partners in local communities statewide.
Just a few days before Ellie and Gina received their holiday meal in Taneytown, local businesses came together on November 3 for MFB’s premiere corporate volunteering experience, Pack to Give Back, where volunteers from local businesses lovingly packed not only those two meals, but thousands more for Marylanders in need.
In the weeks between Pack to Give Back, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, neighbors will have visited numerous MFB partner sites statewide, including City of Refuge in eastern Baltimore, Mt. Moriah in Mount Holly, and the Love Wins Movement in Severn. While the faces and situations are different, in hearing from neighbors, it’s clear that much of the sentiment is the same.
The City of Refuge: Exceeding Expectations
On 7th street in Baltimore City, City of Refuge has been “Bringing Hope to Life” for more than 20 years, providing various resources, including food, to local neighbors in the Brooklyn area. Like many MFB partners, City of Refuge sees a variety of neighbors, from families struggling to make ends meet to individuals who earn too much to qualify for benefits like SNAP.
And then there are first timers, like Tina Crow.
“My mom is a big holiday person, so it’s kind of tough for her. She wanted to try to piece things together for Thanksgiving, but the fact is, we just don’t have it this year. That’s why I’m here at City of Refuge today, for the first time ever—a friend told me that they were giving away turkeys,” said Tina.
And following her initial trip, Tina was pleasantly surprised.
“We got that turkey, plus a whole box from the Maryland Food Bank which contains the rest of the things that we need; the mashed potatoes, the stuffing, there’s Mac and cheese in there. I wasn’t expecting to get this much, actually…”
Mt. Moriah: Caring, Kind, and Comprehensive
And just as Tina was finding hope at City of Refuge, site coordinator Twelvatine Nesbitt was welcoming neighbors at Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, just eight miles to the northwest.
“Here in the heart of the Walbrook Junction community, people visit for different reasons. Some work, but many are unemployed. There are single families, but they all need what we can give to help make their ends meet, and it is especially meaningful at the holidays,” explained Twelvatine.
Veronica T., who lives just two blocks from Mt. Moriah, is frustrated by what she sees at her local grocery store.
“That place around the corner, you know it seems like the prices are going up every day. You can’t buy eggs, sugar, flour—nothing! And chicken? Oh my goodness, who can pay 12 dollars a pound?” she said.
At the same time, Veronica is very appreciative of what this dedicated MFB partner has to offer at this time of year.
“I am SO grateful that we could get a turkey and thankful for the box of sides. This lets us keep up my grandmother’s tradition of us all getting together—without it, I don’t know that we would,” Veronica said.
When Love Wins, We All Do, Too…
In Anne Arundel County, Severn’s Love Wins Movement is “dedicated to loving people well, and to meeting the needs of our local community.” They did both during a massive holiday meal distribution event in mid-November, where nearly 400 neighbors were able to make preparations to enjoy the holidays the way they wanted to, including Catherine J.
“Well, I was forced to retire from the banking industry during the pandemic and my retirement income is a lot less than what I was making, so that’s why I am here. If I can get some food, then I can pay for my medicines too,” Catherine said.
While waiting for her turn to have a turkey, a box with fixings, and an assortment of household goods loaded into her car, Catherine reflected on the fact that this, her second visit, was much easier than her first.
“I fought coming out here the first time, but my girlfriend told me that the people wouldn’t make me feel bad, and she was right,” she said. “I felt much better about coming here today, especially with the holiday coming up. This is not something I want, this is something I need, and that realization made a big difference to my comfort level. Thank you to everyone who makes this possible.”
While accessing nutritious food is critical to being able to thrive every day, it takes on an extra level of importance around the holidays. When Marylanders don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, they can focus on the truly important things, like family, tradition, and self-care.
On behalf of the Ellies, Ginas, Veronicas, Tinas and tens of thousands of other neighbors whose holidays were made brighter because you cared enough to support the Maryland Food Bank—THANK YOU!
We Need Your Help
Programs, campaigns, and educational outreach at the Maryland Food Bank has always relied on the philanthropic support of charitable individuals like you.
Much like our food distribution efforts, outreach activities at the Maryland Food Bank rely on generous donations of money and time.
We hope you’ll consider a contribution.