As the Shutdown Continues, More Marylanders Face Hunger
Jo-Ann Enwezor: 00:03
Hi, this is Jo-Ann Enwezor and this is a special edition of Entréeductions. Today marks the third week that the government has been shut down, and it also marks the first day that federal workers will not be paid. We thought that it would be really important for us to talk about how this shutdown will impact hungry Marylanders. I have today, with me, three special guests. We have Carmen Del Guercio. He is in the middle. He is that guy right there and he is the President and CEO of the Maryland Food Bank. We have Meg Kimmel. She is the Executive Vice president of Programs and also External Affairs, and right here to my direct left is Katie Beltz. Katie is the Director of Client Services. I’m going to jump right in with you Carmen. Great. So can you paint me a picture? What are you hearing about the shutdown and how is it going to be impacting Maryland?
Carmen Del Guercio: 01:00
Yeah, right now we’re hearing a lot of noise, right, because as you said, this is the third weekend. This is the first time that Marylanders are actually going to be affected or government workers are going to be affected in terms of lack of pay. So, we talk about when you talk to our partners, there is a lot of anxiety. There’s a lot of concern out there because again, we see what’s on the horizon. One thing we have noticed within our organization is, our website allows folks to access it to figure out where they might find food. And what we have seen in the last three days, which is an indication of what might be coming, is the fact that activity on that site is up 25 percent in the last three days alone. So now this is becoming real for more and more people in the beginning to try to figure out what solutions they may or may not have. And as this progresses, what happens is people start to have to make decisions, right? We’re gonna make trade-offs between having to pay their mortgage, medicines, healthcare, whatever those issues might be versus food. Our job is to figure out how to bring food into that equation in a bigger way, so they can begin to allocate what dollars they do have, whether it’s savings or others towards those types of needs, knowing that food, because of the Maryland Food Bank’s efforts, is going to be available to them in other ways.
Jo-Ann Enwezor: 02:07
Wow. That is alarming. That 25 percent spike on our website. Meg, can you tell me a little bit about what we’re doing now to address it?
Meg Kimmel: 02:12
Sure, absolutely. So we are in conversations today with both our network partners, those community based organizations that we work with every day across the state, as well as with our corporate partners to figure out if we can get access to more food. So we typically have an inventory of donated food that we have available to distribute, and we also purchase food, but what we do know is that with an increase in demand, our inventory will not be able to meet that demand. So we are talking to our friends and partners now to find out what more we can do in the days and weeks ahead.
Jo-Ann Enwezor: 02:42
Right, that’s really fantastic because it looks like we are getting prepared for what’s to come because right now it’s kind of uncertain, right? Because we don’t know how much longer the shutdown will be.
Meg Kimmel: 02:52
Exactly and so we do have to be prepared for the long term here and there are, as you’ll hear, I’m sure Katie will mention this as well, there are different populations that we’re working with, right? So we know that SNAP beneficiaries and families whose kids rely on lunches in school are covered for the next couple of weeks into February, through February I think, but we also have the furloughed workers and then we have other folks who we are concerned about as well. So we need to have a multipronged strategy in place.
Jo-Ann Enwezor: 03:14
And speaking of that multipronged prong strategy, Katie, can you tell me first what is our SNAP outreach program?
Katie Beltz: 03:25
Our SNAP outreach program, we have several different people that work to do outreach and help people either find out if they’re eligible to apply for SNAP, or help them with their SNAP application or just talk to them about the process, talk them through it in person or over the phone. They do a lot of work all over the state.
Jo-Ann Enwezor: 03:44
So specific to the shut down, how will this then effect hungry Marylanders that rely on the program?
Katie Beltz: 03:52
So, the effects we are hoping and we’ve been assured are not going to come into effect until March. There’s supposed to be releasing the money that would be given to people who are already enrolled in February at the end of January. So, by doing that they will get all the way through February and so March is when they would be affected first.
Jo-Ann Enwezor: 04:15
So then if SNAP disappears, what will happen?
Katie Beltz: 04:19
Well, 11 percent of our state relies on SNAP. That’s about 684,000 people. And that is a huge number of people in a huge amount of food for us to try to replace. Our partners are going to do whatever they can, and we’re going to do whatever we can to give food and, assist them wherever we’re able to, but it is a huge gap and the Maryland Food Bank can’t continue on that way forever filling in that gap. So it is a huge issue, and we really want to try to get that money back as soon as we can.
Jo-Ann Enwezor: 04:54
Meg Kimmel: 04:55
And in fact I would add to that, you know, this shutdown and the extra load that it will place on the organization is unbudgeted, unplanned. We are not in a position to become a stopgap for a SNAP program that goes missing for Marylanders. So, we will be relying on community support both from corporate partners as well as individuals across the state to help us do more, starting this week.
Jo-Ann Enwezor: 05:20
Carmen Del Guercio: 05:21
But at the same time, we’re not gonna wait, right? We are Maryland’s hunger safety net and so we’re prepared to begin to provide more food to people in need starting as soon as we have to, today, if we have to, and we’ll begin to do that more and more. As much of that work as we possibly can afford. With the next point, this is an unplanned event, right? And so there, there’s resources can only go so far, but we realize it’s our responsibility to try to find ways to bring solutions to those tables and we’re going to begin to do that and hopefully over time we’ll be able to bring more people to the table and help us accomplish that mission.
Jo-Ann Enwezor: 05:52
Right. And so of course this is a bit of an alarm, but we are preparing, and we are trying to get ready. If someone is at home and they’re hungry or they find themselves in a position that they will become hungry in a few days, what can they do?
Meg Kimmel: 06:08
Right, so they can go directly to our website, which is mdfoodbank.org and there is a button at the top of the webpage there that says need food (aka – Find Food). They can click right on that button, they go onto another page, type in their zip code and they will find Maryland Food Bank partners and pantries near them.
Jo-Ann Enwezor: 06:24
Great, that’s fantastic. And then my last question is going to be for you Carmen. What can people at home do to help to get prepared for people in their communities? What is that one or two steps that they can take?
Carmen Del Guercio: 06:38
Well as Meg said, you certainly can go to our website, mdfoodbank.org and there’s several ways that you might be able to help, right? You can donate food. We also have a virtual a food drive platform in which you can actually provide dollars. With an organization our size, we have tremendous buying power and the dollars that you provide to us allows us to spend that dollar in a way that’s much more efficient if you will, then you can do at a general retailer. So financial support like that, we can double or triple the value of that dollar using our buying power versus yours, so financial support goes a long way. Volunteers are always welcome. We have a number of volunteers who already donate 48,000 hours or volunteer to this organization every year. We couldn’t do our work without it. So the extent that people want to continue to help us, to sort and provide food, that’s certainly another avenue that people can explore to help us through this cause. I mean the issue is there are 665,000 people already food insecure irregardless of the events that we just talked about. And we as an organization—in our 40th year—are already providing over 100,000 meals a day, which is already a daunting enough task to serve the people that are currently in need. Layering these folks on is going to be an extra burden. We stand ready to do exactly everything we can to try to fill that gap, but that can only go so far. So we’d appreciate any support that you could provide for the Maryland Food Bank to help those both furloughed employees who are starting to feel the tension of this today, and potentially those in a month or so, as Katie mentioned, who are SNAP recipients and others who are certainly going to feel the pinch of the shutdown as well. So any of the support along those lines would be much appreciated, but know that the Maryland Food Bank will do everything it can with its resources to begin to fill that gap today.
Jo-Ann Enwezor: 08:15
Thank you so much. So, if you are at home and you want to do something right now, log onto our website, it’s mdfoodbank.org, and if you are in a position that you need food, you can go there and find food and also feel free to call us. Thank you so much for joining this special edition of Entréeductions. This is Jo-Ann and you’ve been lovely.