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More Marylanders relying on food assistance, says Maryland Food Bank

Land O’Lakes, Inc. in the middle of donating nearly 40,000lbs of macaroni & cheese to the Maryland Food Bank.
Posted at 1:39 PM, Jul 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-06 13:39:44-04

The number of Marylanders relying on local food assistance grew by 21 percent between March and May, while the cost of food grew due to inflation.

That's from a recent analysis by the Maryland Food Bank, which is saying it needs continued support because its current "situation is just as challenging now as it was during the pandemic.”

MFB President & CEO Carmen Del Guercio said in a statement:

Maryland was already one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S. before the pandemic, and now, inflation and rising costs are making things worse for everyone, including the Maryland Food Bank. We’re buying more food than ever, and with rising food and fuel costs, the situation is just as challenging now as it was during the pandemic.

The Food Bank's latest budget is bracing for an 18 percent cost increase for programming and food distribution.

The Bank plans to buy up to 25 million pounds of food at $0.88 per pound in Fiscal Year 2023 - more than double the amount of food, and the cost for it, before the pandemic. (The Bank was buying an estimated 12 million pounds of food at $0.45 per pound before the pandemic.)

In preparation for the start of FY23, which began July 1, MFB’s Board of Directors approved an annual budget for the food bank that forecasts a significant 18% increase in food distribution and programming costs over the prior fiscal year, even before factoring in the costs of operating MFB’s four facilities.

As an example of the sheer impact of rising costs, the food bank was buying roughly 12 million pounds of food at .45 a pound before the pandemic. For FY23, the food bank plans to purchase up to 25 million pounds of food at almost double the cost at .88 per pound.

The number of people relying on the Food Bank's network of food assistance partners grew by 21 percent from March to May. The number of partner visits, 2-1-1 phone calls and online searches for food also surged by 30 percent in the same time.

The Food Bank will be releasing more information next week about food insecurity trends in Maryland.

Del Guercio also said: “Despite the current economic environment, we are focusing our efforts on building an even stronger, more impactful food bank. But we’ll need continued support if we’re going to withstand these economic headwinds around rising food and other operating costs.... Everyone is feeling the pinch right now, and the food bank is not immune to this same economic volatility. But the financial impact of these rising costs on our operations is enormous because most of the food we purchase is distributed to our statewide network of community partners at no cost to them.”

The Food Bank has distributed enough food to provide more than 97 million meals since March 2020 - a 75 percent increase over the same period before the pandemic began.