Maryland Food Bank: Fighting Hunger and Food Insecurity Year-Round
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In a perfectly just world, summertime for all children would mean nothing but carefree fun. For an estimated 22 million children in the United States, summer is a time of hunger and food insecurity. According to a study from the Urban Institute, “Households with children have higher rates of food insecurity during the summer months because more people are at home and fewer resources are available without school lunches.”
This is especially pressing in Maryland, where an estimated one in seven children face hunger. “Hunger and food insecurity is a year-round challenge,” explains Elise Krikau, the Senior Vice President of Development for the Maryland Food Bank.
One of the ways the Maryland Food Bank helps children stay fed this time of year is through their Summer Club. Thanks to this program, kids throughout Maryland have access to nutritious food at 40 different community-based organizations, such as their local Boys & Girls Club of America chapter.
Maryland Food Bank’s Summer Club provides nutritious meals for children, which 'prevents summer learning loss and keeps kids on track, so they return to school in the fall ready to learn.'
“The steady stream of healthy food and activity prevents summer learning loss and keeps kids on track, so they return to school in the fall ready to learn,” she says. In addition to their summer programs, they hold Supper Clubs throughout the school year for children who need meals after class.
This summer, the Maryland Food Bank will get to transition back to in-person, hot meals from the to-go bags and boxes they provided for families at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since March 2020, the organization has distributed 97 million meals to Marylanders, completely free of charge. “Historically there has been a nominal fee, [but] we’ve been able to provide food at no cost,” Krikau says, adding, “Philanthropic support has been a key part of that.”
Donor-advised funds (DAFs) have been an important ingredient in the food bank’s ability to serve their communities in times of crisis. In its 2019 fiscal year, the Maryland Food Bank received around 500 grants from DAFs, but the 2020 fiscal year saw a jump to 1,200 grants and then 1,600 grants in FY2021, an increase of 220% in two years.
“It is thanks to our generous donors that we’ve been able to respond to the increased need for food assistance and resources,” she says. “Philanthropic funds – like DAFs – have been the foundation of our COVID-19 response.”
“Hopefully, we’ll continue to see that progress, [as] they’re a great giving vehicle that gives us the most flexibility” Krikau says. She notes that DAFs not only help with the organization’s general operations and ongoing programs (like the Summer Club), but their overall mission “to address root causes, build pathways and help get people out of the cycle [of hunger and food insecurity]. This will be especially important, she says, “as people grapple with inflation.”
Maryland is the most diverse state on the East Coast, and she notes, “every community is different.” The organization honors this diversity by focusing on culturally appropriate foods and services.
“Distributing food in a dignified manner” is another key aspect of what Maryland Food Bank does, Krikau explains. “We want to hear from our communities. We ask, ‘What do you need?’ rather than, ‘We’re going to give you what we think you need’ because how do we address something if we’re not talking to the people who are living it?”
Photo courtesy of the Maryland Food Bank
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