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Bettering Baltimore with The Food Project

Posted at 10:21 PM, Oct 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-22 22:05:47-04

BALTIMORE — A police search helicopter scouring the skies, boarded up vacants lining the streets. This could be any Baltimore neighborhood.

"We felt like the children were crumbling with the buildings. They were left to be forgotten."

Welcome to Southwest Baltimore, where tucked away in the shutdown Samuel F.B. Morse elementary you'll find The Food Project.

"The community knows that this is their space, so there's a lot of pride."

The kitchen cafeteria turned community center is serving up a full plate.

"We'll have kids come after school, but not just to learn how to cook, but also to see if there's jobs or work in the kitchen."

While they started with street outreach feeding the needy, the Food Project has gone way beyond its humble beginnings from just a year ago.

They serve meals daily, the kids are involved in an entrepreneurial project making seedy nutty protein bars that they sell to local businesses.

They're also helping some in this dis enfranchised community find housing and jobs.

"Where would you be without the Food Project...where would I be? God only knows, struggling worse than what I am now."

Amber Cozio, along with her two young children Leo and Ariel are like family to volunteers at The Food Project. She's not only raising these toddlers but also her 16 and 19 year old brothers. She's only 22.

"My mother signed full custody of my brothers over to me," said Cozio. "I have lived all around this neighborhood and I want a better life for them...I want to go ahead and finish this last class and just finish it and get my high school diploma in January and then try to go to school for nursing."

Volunteer Dawn Montgomery has practically adopted Amber and her family, she helped her get her brother back into school. He'd been out for nearly 3 years after his father died.

"He couldn't get himself put back in school, and the run around they was giving me for my ID, it took forever. I've been trying to get him in school since last year," said Montgomery. "It's a lot. It's a lot of phone calls. It's a lot of trying to stretch a budget this is just meant for her and her two children for enough food and clothing, diapers, formula."

"It feels like someone dropped everybody here on a deserted island and then just forgot about them."

And then there's 17 year old Tyree, a 12th grader at Greene Street Academy who also says The Food Project has been his life line.

"It got me a job, that's a start right," Tyree said. "There's a lot of black young kids wouldn't even think to go for a job, wouldn't even apply, I definitely see a future for myself."

Jerel Wilson is a Behavioral Therapist and mentor who's helping teens like Tyree realize their potential, but says they need help.

"More people, more programs, more resources. The kids need opportunity. We need help."

The kids play a role in the success of The Food Project. Once a month they help host a community dinner, they come up with the theme, cook the food and serve it.

In order for the Food Project to remain open and not shut down like the school building that houses them Michelle says they'll need funding.

"It's heartbreaking but the kids are just incredible. I really feel given the right tools they can do anything, so that's why I'm here is to be able to provide a platform and a resource for them to succeed."

For more information on The Food Project, head to their GoFundMe here.