Mobilizing Resources in Times of Crisis
In the bustling Park Heights neighborhood of northwest Baltimore, there is a surprising lack of resources, with the nearest grocery store more than a mile away. But the Langston Hughes Community, Business & Resource Center stands as a beacon, offering food and other forms of assistance to local neighbors.
An MFB Network Partner since 2009, the Langston Hughes Center is the largest food pantry in the state, feeding a predominantly older adult population. The site also offers wraparound services including financial literacy classes, childcare, mental health services, educational and social opportunities for children.
But what happens when a critical community resource experiences a catastrophe? Carol Little, who runs the food pantry at the center, recalls the incident like it was yesterday.
“I remember walking in on a Saturday morning—we had a food distribution event planned, but there was water everywhere,” said Carol. “I called the fire department immediately, and soon found out that a small, accidental fire in a room upstairs set off the sprinkler system, causing severe damage to the structure of this old building.”
While the fire suppression equipment did its job quelling the fire, water from the ceiling-mounted nozzles showered down on the very food they had intended to distribute—boxed items and other dry pantry goods.
Unsure of how they would continue to feed the community, Carol reached out to her contact here at the food bank, Regional Program Director Devonne Franklin.
“Devonne is very, very supportive of our community, and it was a wonderful feeling to be able to have a real conversation with her about our needs,” she shared.
Holding a special place in her heart from her previous work with Langston Hughes while an employee of the Family League of Baltimore, Devonne recalls that emotional conversation.
“The Langston Hughes Center is a vibrant partner, receiving and distributing food every single week. When I heard about the water damage, I knew we had to do something immediately for our neighbors in that community,” said Devonne.
With the help of consistent support from donors like you, Devonne was able to quickly deploy a solution to this troubled neighborhood—a Mobile Market.
“Devonne told me that the food bank had a food truck that could come here and bring boxes of food for each household,” Carol said. “It was just so comforting to hear that the people in this community would still have access to food that they might not be able to otherwise.”
Even before the incident at Langston Hughes, Devonne, using data from our Maryland Hunger Map, had identified Park Heights as a “priority zone” due to the limited availability of resources and was working to onboard a new partner in the area to provide additional support.
“Baltimore’s geography can present challenges. You can be just a block away from resources and not even know it,” she said.
Devonne and Carol agreed that the flexibility and visibility of the Mobile Market was the right solution and decided to deploy it bi-weekly, so that the community would continue to have a reliable source of nutrition.
“Through this experience, we learned that it really is helpful to have a Maryland Food Bank vehicle like the Mobile Market on site, because people stop when they see our logo,” said Devonne.
In addition to providing food through the Mobile Market, Devonne mobilized members of MFB’s Community Impact Team to help neighbors sign up for wraparound services like SNAP (previously known as food stamps) and additional resources that could help people navigate challenging times.
Today, MFB’s Regional Program Directors have a robust set of tools—including the Mobile Market—at their disposal, giving them flexibility to apply the most impactful solutions that address the needs of different communities.
“It was wonderful to have that extra level of service, and from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank the people who make the food bank possible, I honestly don’t know what people would have done otherwise.”
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