LANSDOWNE, Md. — As the demand for food has grown at the Maryland Food Bank, so has their operations.
In less than a month, the non-profit turned an empty warehouse in Lansdowne into a mini-version of its main warehouse in Halethorpe.
They've also hired about 30 workers to pack what they're calling Back Up Boxes. Each box can feed a family of four for up to a week.
"This is new given the COVID-19 situation and the immediate need inside the state," said Rick Condon, the Senior Vice President of Operations at the Maryland Food Bank. "As we start to see pressure on our pantries across the state, we wanted to have some kind of solution to get food in the hands of folks and maintain social distancing."
Condon says on average they are packing about 1,900 Back Up Boxes a day and sending them out to food pantries and other distribution sites.
Many of the workers hired by the Maryland Food Bank work in the hospitality industry and were either laid off or furloughed when Governor Hogan put the stay-at-home executive order in place.
"Usually this has been done with volunteers but as we started seeing stay-at-home across the state, we saw a little bit of strain inside our volunteer network," Condon said. "We had to do other work with our volunteers to continue to feed the network that is supporting the state for the food insecurity."
One of those workers at the Lansdowne warehouse is Elizabeth Sopel, who was furloughed from her jobs as a server at Johnny's and Bar Vasquez. She found out about the opportunity to work at the Maryland Food Bank and jumped at the chance.
"I wanted to help in any way that I could. I’m not the kind of person who just sits by and does nothing," she said.
Sopel and the other team members come in each day at 8 a.m. and work a full day packing boxes. Sopel says at the end of everyday they're told how many boxes they packed and how many families they'll be helping to feed.
"I think everyone here is really motivated to reach out and to do what they can," she said. "I know not everyone is going to be able to get out there and help. I have co-workers who have new babies at home, or sick parents or pre-existing conditions who can’t risk going out. I can and I do."
Condon says they know as the unemployment rate goes up, so will the demand on their services. And it comes at a time when food, especially non-perishables, is harder and harder to come by.
"We cannot stop. We’re seeing more people come to the network, they’re putting more demand on our supply and based on that need we need additional funding from people and resources," Condon said.
The Maryland Food Bank is in critical need of donations to continue feeding people and say monetary donations can stretch much farther than canned/boxed donations. To make a donation, click here.