BALTIMORE (WMAR) — It's been a year since the pandemic started in Maryland: unemployment spiked, businesses had to close; but the Maryland Food Bank has been there to help, serving an unprecedented number of people.
"Demand spiked literally overnight," said Carmen Del Guercio, Maryland Food Bank President and CEO.
It’s the highest number in the Maryland Food Bank’s 40-year history. Before the pandemic, over 1.5 million Marylanders were already dealing with food insecurity. Now the number has climbed to 2.5 million.
"So nearly one in 4 Marylanders are food insecure," said Del Guercio.
Despite new challenges with the pandemic, they stayed operational to meet the unprecedented demand, distributing nearly 47 million meals in the last year.
"It’s really heartwarming to know that we have had an impact on people’s lives," said Del Guercio.
Del Guercio said they spent quadruple the amount of money they usually spend and kept distribution points open.
"We instituted a number of safety protocols and social distancing to make sure that as volunteers come into our space, they feel as safe as they possible can," said Del Guercio.
They also changed how they distributed food, with low-touch, low-interaction exchanges.
"We created a back up box, a box of food that could feed a family of four for a week that made for easy distribution," said Del Guercio.
Del Guercio said now their focus is on helping families recover.
"There is no vaccine for food insecurity. The 2.5 million Marylanders who are food insecure today will be dealing with this issue well past a vaccine date," said Del Guercio.
So they are increasing efforts to address the root causes of hunger.
"So that as we continue to serve people, we’re also trying to address some of the barriers they are facing to put them in a better position to provide for themselves and their families and not rely on food banks going forward," said Del Guercio.