Since March 14, more than 300,000 Marylanders have filed for unemployment. As a result, people who have never considered receiving charity are left with no choice but to seek out assistance, adding to a population that regularly relies on community support to get by. It’s no surprise then, that nonprofit groups everywhere are seeing numbers not seen in over a decade – perhaps ever. While this crisis shows just how critical these groups are for our communities, it has also revealed a significant strain that’s becoming seemingly insurmountable for many of our region’s largest nonprofits.
Among the many philanthropic organizations working tirelessly to meet demand, there’s one in particular that’s been vital in the livelihood of our state — the Maryland Food Bank. While food banks are built to meet demand in times of crisis, Carmen Del Guercio, leader of the Maryland Food Bank, recently shared with me:
“Demand is exploding overnight and we’re seeing more and more new people seeking assistance from our community partners every day. For many families, losing one paycheck means the difference between going to the supermarket and going to a food pantry.”
The numbers tell the story in stark detail. Pre-COVID, the Maryland Food Bank was distributing enough food to provide more than 100,000 meals a day; now that number has risen to 140,000 meals. With demand far outpacing food donations, the Maryland Food Bank has had to purchase most of its food at a time when costs have risen by roughly 20 percent and food shipments are taking many weeks to arrive. In a typical month, $220,000 is usually budgeted to purchase food. But because of dramatically increased public need, the food bank recently spent closer to $3.6 million to purchase food over a 30-day period.
There are several ways we can all help feed hungry families, some of whom could be your neighbors. While food donations are always appreciated, there is no substitute for monetary contributions. The Maryland Food Bank’s buying power allows them to purchase up to three times the amount of food per dollar and distribute that food to various programs throughout our state. You can make a variety of donations, and even set up an online fundraiser and get your family or local community involved.
Without a clear end in sight, millions of people will continue to lean on nonprofits for support in the days, weeks and months ahead.
I call upon all of us to consider helping a local charity in any way we can. Each one of us has a cause we’re connected to, whether it’s hunger, addiction, poverty, domestic violence, or another affliction in our communities and can find a way to help. Become a volunteer, start a food or clothing drive, or write a check – now is the time to become part of the solution together.
Because as more people begin to rely on nonprofits for support, we must be ready to support them.