It takes more than food to end hunger—which is why the Maryland Food Bank is working harder than ever to make sure its Maryland residents don’t go to bed hungry.
Ever since 1979, when the food bank began by giving out donuts in a Baltimore City garage, the mission has been to end hunger in the state. Here in Maryland, one in nine residents are considered food insecure all year long. The Maryland Food Bank explains that sometimes it’s a matter of affording food, but for others it’s a lack of access due to food deserts.
“People don’t typically realize there’s a difference between the terms ‘food insecure’ and ‘hungry,’" said president & CEO Carmen Del Guercio. “To sum up, hunger is the physical sensation you feel for a temporary amount of time, like when you skip a meal. But food insecurity is when you don’t have consistent access to enough food for a healthy life, or quite simply, you don’t know where your next meal will come from.”
Rising food costs, bill payments, and expensive medical costs are all factors for those struggling to find food. Access to grocery stores and reliable transportation can also impact a family’s ability to regularly access a healthy meal. This is why the Maryland Food Bank is dedicated to understanding communities throughout the state individually, and figuring out which programs are most effective in different neighborhoods.
“We believe that people need to have access to good, nutritious food, no matter where they live,” said Del Guercio.
The food bank is launching a five-year strategic plan called MFB 2.0, where its regional program directors work together with community leaders to identify the right solutions and needs for specific areas in Maryland. The organization is also developing partnerships with social service agencies across the state to address the causes of hunger, like housing, affordable healthcare, and job training.
To help address job training, the Maryland Food Bank created FoodWorks, the state’s most impactful culinary training program. The program takes place over the course of 12 weeks, teaching cooking skills, providing food safety certifications, and connecting graduates with job opportunities at local businesses. As of April 2019, FoodWorks has graduated 31 groups of trainees, who have gone on to work at Horseshoe Casino, Woodberry Kitchen, Stevenson University, Baltimore County Club, and more.
As the East Coast’s first food bank, the Maryland Food Bank celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. While leading the fight against hunger, the organization recently reported serving more than 37 million meals during fiscal year 2018.
“In our first year of operation, we distributed 400,000 pounds of food; now, in our 40th year, we’re providing that same amount of food in less than a week. And there is a lot to celebrate,” said Del Guercio.
If you’re interested in helping or volunteering with the state’s food bank, there are plenty of ways to contribute. The main ways to give back to the organization are through food, funds, and time.
The easiest way to contribute is to give a financial donation on the food bank’s website. You can contribute a one-time donation, or give to the organization on a monthly basis. You can also fundraise or set up a virtual food drive for individuals or businesses. Once the virtual drive is created, you can invite family, friends, co-workers, and employees to contribute. By using the food bank’s online drive, contributors save time by donating from the comfort of their own home.
Volunteers are also encouraged to help out year-round. Whether sorting food, harvesting crops, flash-freezing healthy meals in the Charles T. Bauer Community Kitchen, or serving as a nutrition ambassador, Maryland Food Bank volunteers make a big impact in the lives of hungry Marylanders.
“As a food bank, our day-to-day focus is on distributing as much food as possible to the people who need it most. But, that’s a huge task, and we can’t do it alone. We need help from the community if we want to continue our work and do even more,” said Del Guercio.
Stay up to date with what’s happening during the Maryland Food Bank’s 40th anniversary by visiting mdfoodbank.org/40th.