Unexpected Need and Relief at the Holidays: Meet Tina Crow | Maryland Food Bank
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Unexpected Need and Relief at the Holidays: Meet Tina Crow

December 22, 2023

“Right now, we’ve got ice cubes in the freezer and a few canned goods in the cupboard, so that’s what Thanksgiving was looking like—noodles, with maybe some beans. That’s it, really,” said Tina Crow, a first-time visitor to City of Refuge in northeast Baltimore just before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Last year, the Maryland Food Bank distributed more than 41.6 million meals to Marylanders like Tina through our statewide network of nearly 1,100 community and faith-based distribution points. And while those numbers remain staggering and tell a tale about the overall state of hunger in Maryland, it’s important to remember that each one of the estimated 807,433 neighbors who visited one of our partners has their own voice, and their own story to share.

“I didn’t really think that a person like me who had a job would ever need to go to a pantry. I thought it was just for people who were, you know, homeless. But then I lost that job.”

TINA CROW

Neighbor

Tina Talks About How She Found Food Assistance

“I didn’t really think that a person like me who had a job would ever need to go to a pantry,” Tina said. “I thought it was just for people who were, you know, homeless. But then I lost that job.”

Like many, Tina was comfortably working for most of her adult life and didn’t really give much thought to food assistance.

“I was working in a cafeteria in the Anne Arundel County Public School system when Mom got sick. She’s 79 and has both congestive heart failure and rheumatoid arthritis. She couldn’t walk half the time, couldn’t really work anymore, needed help, you know, someone to take care of her, so that’s what I did,” she shared.

As her mom’s condition worsened, and Tina took more time off work to be a caregiver, she eventually lost her job.

“After that, we kinda’ fell on hard times. I wasn’t working, so we couldn’t afford things, and had to move in with my daughter, and then her house flooded—and we didn’t have anywhere to turn, just before the holidays,” Tina continued.

Luckily for Tina, a kind neighbor told her that there was somewhere close by that she could get help—City of Refuge.

neighbors picking up food at partner City of Refuge

In Baltimore’s Brooklyn neighborhood, where nearly 40% of people are struggling to make ends meet and live below the federal poverty line, MFB Network Partner City of Refuge tries to not only meet people’s most basic needs—like food—but to help neighbors realize a brighter future through wraparound services that can help eliminate the root causes of hunger.

And during her visit—just a week or so before the holiday—Tina found the organization’s name to be quite accurate.

“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,” Tina said. “That’s why I’m here at City of Refuge today—a friend told me that they were giving away turkeys. We got that, 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.”

family Thanksgiving table full of homemade foods

Post-Holiday Gratitude

“It was actually…AMAZING! We received so much food from the City of Refuge that I was able to put together a real Thanksgiving,” Tina said, describing her family’s experiences during a follow-up conversation in early December.

At the table alongside her mother, her boyfriend, her two sisters and their children, Tina’s “real Thanksgiving” included a family tradition: her mom’s stuffing.

“With the stuffing in the box from the food bank, I was able to do what my mom always did—formed it into balls and stuck them in the bottom of the pan to soak up the flavor from the juices!” she said.

Tina was also reflective of what it took to make the meal happen in the first place–going out to a food distribution event.

“It was tough, but then I realized that I had to suck up my pride and do what I needed to do to feed my family, and mine is glad that I did. They sure enjoyed the turkey and all the fixings that we got from the from the pantry,” she said.

When asked if she had thoughts for other Marylanders who may be facing their own challenges, Tina suggests that people consider that “the people are here to help us, there’s no reason to be scared. The pantry staff are here because they want to be, and they won’t make you feel bad about it.”

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.

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