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Food pantry operators making more trips to the Maryland Food Bank to keep up with demand

Posted at 5:00 PM, May 15, 2020

HALETHORPE, Md. — It's early in the morning and the Marketplace at the Maryland Food Bank is bustling with activity.

Pastor Merrill Griffin of the Soul Harvest Church and Ministries is here to get food they need to distribute to people who live near their church in Northwest Baltimore. He said the situation is pretty dire.

"We’ve literally had to go and service families that just did not have food and could not wait for us to open up another day," he said.

Griffin says they have increased the number of days and hours they are handing out food, thus he must make more trips to the food bank to get donations.

"Not only has there been an increase in those who we see on a weekly basis but we’re seeing faces we’ve never seen," he said.

Rhonda Jackson with ACAN in Severna Park says they went from feeding about 1,500 families a month to close to 2,400 a month. She said people will walk for a couple of miles to pick up food.

"’I'm quite sure that even when the pandemic slows down people will still be coming to us because a lot of people won’t have jobs any longer," she said.

It's a similar situation at City of Refuge Baltimore.Keith Hunley, the director of operations, says the demand for food has not slowed down since the coronavirus pandemic first started.

"I feel like our workload has quadrupled probably since COVID-19. We were doing on average 800 meals a week, now we’re doing probably 2,400," he said.

These are just a few of the many organizations who are increasing the number of trips they must make to the Maryland Food Bank to keep up with demand.

"We might be lacking milk, we might be lacking eggs. We already have a plan of what we’re short of at the center so we can fill in the blanks right here," said Jackson.

"The needs have increased and [the food bank has] been able to help us meet the demand," said Hunley. "We’re grateful for what they provide and we couldn’t do it without them."

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The Maryland Food Bank works with 350 groups that run more than 1,100 programs across most of Maryland, said Carmen Del Guercio, the CEO/President of the food bank. And while some have had to close or reduce operations because of health concerns or lack of volunteers, most are pushing forward.

"They’ve been a great resource for us and we’re doing everything we can to make sure that when they come into our facility that we have ample food for them to respond to their needs," Del Guercio said.

It's a daunting endeavor when you consider the long lines of people waiting for their next meal day after day, week after week, relying on strangers to keep them fed. But Pastor Griffin and all of the others who are distributing food right now know they are the lifeline to their neighbors and will be the lifeline for quite sometime.

"We’re here for the long haul. When you see the faces of people who really wouldn’t have anything else to eat that week had it not been for your establishment, you realize the importance of pressing your way even if you are a little apprehensive," Griffin said.