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Maryland Food Bank pandemic grant set to end this week

Maryland Food Bank.jpg
Posted at 9:24 PM, Dec 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-28 15:38:34-05

BALTIMORE — The Maryland Food Bank (MFB) has been a huge resource for people during the pandemic. Thanks to them, organizations were able to feed many communities through a grant, but now that grant program maybe ending.

On December 31, the Maryland Food Bank is ending its grant program that provided at least $40 million worth of food to Marylanders.

The grant, called Food to the Network, helped and assisted many local organizations, and covered the majority of nonprofit's food cost to assist families during the pandemic.

Operations like We Our Us, Baltimore Youth Coalition and 4mycity say the pandemic might be ending, but people are still feeling the effects, which is why they fear ending the grant will cause more families to suffer.

"It’s a big hurt to everybody. It's ridiculous, especially going through this time of the year. Taking this away is like you're taking food off people's tables," said Ken Parker, Food Director of We Our Us.

"We’re grateful for everything the Maryland Food Bank has done, but what we're doing is we're just trying to bring attention to this... we don't want it to end soon. We have families in need," said Darren Badillo, Mentor at Baltimore Youth Coalition.

Advocates expressed how the worry of food can force people to commit more crime.

"You can’t make a difference if you cut off the opportunity for people to get what they need. If you're not getting what you need, what do you ask them to do? You're asking them to commit crimes, you're asking them to go out and do what they have to do, to maintain their families," said Parker.

MFB sent this statement to WMAR-2 News:

On December 31, the Maryland Food Bank is ending a pandemic-funded program that has provided an estimated $40 million worth of food to Maryland communities through its statewide network of 300+ local organizations.

Over the last 2.5 years, food donations dramatically declined and thanks to federal pandemic relief funding and generous private contributions, the Maryland Food Bank was able to fully cover the cost for all the food it purchased and distributed, despite historically high volumes. Since 2020, the cost of food distributed by the Maryland Food Bank statewide is approximately $40 million. A program of this size is beyond what the food bank can sustain. MFB is reporting an $8 million loss for previous fiscal year and estimates ending the current fiscal year with a $10 million loss.

Although the broad grant program—called Food to the Network—is ending this week, the food bank will still cover more partner costs than it did before the pandemic. Organizations will pay only for the cost of purchased food, minus fees that went to handling, distribution and storage costs. Produce costs will remain at zero and grants received by the food bank can also help to underwrite food distribution costs.

The food bank notified its partner organizations about this change several months ago. To help offset the impact, MFB increased its budget for grants to local organizations from $2 million to $3 million and is advocating for additional financial support. MFB is actively expanding its federal commodities and contract growing programs to help fill potential gaps in food distribution and has also provided training to its network on how to raise additional funds.