Maryland Food Bank Partners Remain Encouraged Despite COVID-19
As second responders during unexpected times of need, the Maryland Food Bank will continue to keep the doors of our facilities open as we all adjust to new closures and anxieties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But it’s not just the food bank that has remained available to serve food-insecure and vulnerable populations across the state. Our network of community partners walk the walk with us, and are dedicated to continuing to offer their services to Marylanders in need.
It Takes Dedicated Partners
“I can’t close because we have too many people that depend on us,” said Regina Brantley, food pantry director at LIFE Church Ministries.
Regina Brantley was in the Maryland Food Bank’s Market Place last Tuesday morning to stock up on food for the individuals and families she serves on a weekly basis. On this day, more than 30 partners picked up food from MFB, which is the type of foot traffic received during the holidays, the busiest time of the year for food donations and distributions.
“I’m so glad the food bank is open. That’s what helped make things less scary for me… that if the food bank was still willing to share food that we could then share with the public, then things were okay. It gave me some ease.”
Under Regina’s direction, the LIFE Church Ministries food pantry serves approximately 75 families and 45 homeless individuals every week in Baltimore City and Northern Anne Arundel County.
“They are dependent on this food,” said Regina. “The need does not stop.”
Many of our community partners would agree with Regina. Despite the fears and anxieties associated with the spread of Coronavirus, roughly 65% of our network remains operational, as partner organizations do everything they can to keep their doors open to serve food-insecure individuals and families. Their dedication to ending hunger in Maryland trumps any apprehension to feeding our neighbors in need.
At The Transformation Center in Brooklyn, Pantry Coordinator Brian Zimmerman says that his organization typically only serves food once a week. However, they have added a second distribution day to accommodate the increased need.
“People who are out of work, that normally don’t need food, I think are going to start showing up to the pantry,” said Brian. “We’re staying very fluid. We’ll see how the demand increases and will flex to even more days if that becomes a need.”
As news about the virus rapidly evolves and schools, restaurants, and businesses close, the Maryland Food Bank has become especially reliant on the efforts of our fearless partners. Instead of shutting down, many of these organizations have made operational adjustments to ensure that they are maintaining social distancing and distributing food in the safest way possible.
Many partners are experimenting with the practice of “Grab and Go” food distribution to limit the amount of contact typical at a distribution event. Instead of clients self-serving and picking what they want from the available food at the pantries, organizations are pre-bagging items and leaving them out for quick and easy pick up.
Our partners are going the extra mile for the people they serve on a regular basis. The coordinators and volunteers at Baldwin United Methodist Church have gone to great lengths to serve food directly to the doorsteps of people in need who are unable to make it to the pantry under these circumstances.
“People who are out of work, that normally don’t need food, I think are going to start showing up to the pantry. We’re staying very fluid. We’ll see how the demand increases and will flex to even more days if that becomes a need.”
“Most of those we deliver to are elderly and are at a greater risk,” stated Pantry Coordinator Patricia Bernal. “I speak to them on the phone, find out what they need, pack it up, and then I leave it at their door where it is available to them so there is no personal contact.”
Pantry coordinators are getting creative and not letting anxieties about the virus get the best of them or their essential organizations.
“We’re not afraid,” stated Regina from LIFE Church Ministries. “You serve safely and keep your distance because it doesn’t make sense for food to be here, in our pantry, and people not have it.”
Stability in Uncertain Times
“People are constantly coming to us and thanking us for being open,” said Brian from The Transformation Church.
The last thing people need in a pandemic is a lack of food supply. And while the Maryland Food Bank is grateful that its community partners share this same sentiment, partners have acknowledged their gratitude in return.
“I’m so glad the food bank is open,” Regina said. “That’s what helped make things less scary for me… that if the food bank was still willing to share food that we could then share with the public, then things were okay. It gave me some ease.”
After visiting six grocery stores, Regina was worried she wouldn’t find bread to serve sandwiches to the transient populations her pantry serves. With food flying off the shelves at grocery stores and people undergoing experiences the likes they’ve never witnessed before, it’s difficult for pantry coordinators to remain hopeful. But after being able to pick up bread, dairy, and other items from the food bank, positivity is often restored.
“It was amazing to find bread. I went to six stores last night looking for bread for our homeless table and I was kind of panicking, and when I came here I was like ‘God, I know you left this bread for this homeless table. With this, I can serve about 50 to 60 homeless people,’” Regina said.
While unprecedented events and closures have called for organizational adjustments and agility, now is not the time for the Maryland Food Bank to back down or slow our operations.
We are continuing to operate normal food distribution programming, albeit in a customized way to ensure the safety of food bank employees, our network of partners, and the clients they serve.
As part of that effort, we are also assembling “Back Up Boxes,” which are filled with most wanted items, like pasta, peanut butter, canned tuna, and canned vegetables.
Each 30-pound box is designed to offer nutritious, nonperishable staples for families in need serving as a “backup” in situations where our programs and regular distribution channels are not available.
This crisis has not only made things difficult for food-insecure and vulnerable populations, but social distancing has proven to be an obstacle for people who wish to give back to those in need. Even so, the food bank is in need of volunteers to assist with packing these Back Up Boxes in our Baltimore Warehouse, so that they can be distributed throughout the state.
We are living in difficult times, the likes of which most of us have never experienced or could have ever imagined. But times like these are when the food bank is most dependent on the generosity of its donors. We are experiencing increased volumes of requests for food and expect the need for assistance to remain high as this pandemic continues.
We know that many people want to give back to those in need and are confident that our loyal network will continue supporting us in our efforts.
Together, we will get through this challenging time by staying true to the Maryland Food Bank’s core mission: “Feeding people, strengthening communities, and ending hunger for more Marylanders.”
Maryland Food Bank’s COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Efforts
As essential second responders, the Maryland Food Bank is working diligently to continue core operations amidst this public health crisis. For 40 years, we’ve served as the hub of the food assistance safety net, and we will continue to be here for our neighbors in need, especially during times of uncertainty.
With the closure of schools and businesses, as well as social distancing, an increasing number of Marylanders are at risk of losing income and will look to our partners for help, putting a further strain on the safety net.
We have the experience, infrastructure, and expertise to help Maryland navigate through these difficult times, but it will require additional resources. You can help:
We’re packing 30lbs of nutritious foods into Back Up Boxes
Our wholesale purchasing power amplifies your monetary gift
We need 13-60-year-olds to help us sort and box food in Baltimore