CUMBERLAND — To keep up with growing demands for food from an ever-increasing number of Marylanders seeking assistance, the Maryland Food Bank has developed a $28 million goal for its year-long plan that provides a blueprint for the amount of food and financial resources needed to maintain the high volume of activity MFB has seen since COVID-19 first emerged in mid-March.
“Like other food banks across the country, we are bracing for a challenging year ahead,” said MFB President and CEO Carmen Del Guercio. “With additional support from the government stalled, remote learning preventing kids from accessing the meals they rely on at school and vulnerable populations continuing to be impacted by the effects of COVID-19, we are preparing for a significant increase in food assistance needs for the foreseeable future.”
Specifically, the food bank will concentrate on expanding food access to those who are struggling most under COVID-19, including Marylanders who are newly unemployed as a result of COVID-related business closures and layoffs; members of communities of color, which have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic; and homebound or self-quarantined/quarantined and cannot leave their homes safely to access food.
According to a number of economists, public health experts and disaster response experts that MFB consulted, these three groups are facing an inordinate number of challenges that the food bank is working to better understand so that it can ensure those most deeply impacted by the virus are continuing to receive food as the need intensifies. MFB will use data and mapping resources to determine where these populations are located in order to deploy new and expanded food distribution methods in areas of greatest need.
The food bank will work to improve the nutritional quality of the food being distributed by swapping the current contents of backup boxes for healthier foods, exploring the distribution of produce boxes to supplement the shelf-stable items found in BUBs and including nutrition education inserts and recipes.
This work will supplement MFB’s accelerated efforts to respond to COVID-19. From March through August, the food bank distributed more than 31.4 million pounds of food vs. 15.9 million pounds during the same period in 2019, a 97% increase over last year. MFB is also spending more money than ever before to purchase food, having seen a 414% increase in the amount of money spent between March and August.
“As we look ahead and do our best to prepare for the future, the one thing we know for certain is that this pandemic will disrupt the economy and suppress opportunity for months, if not years, to come,” Del Guercio said.