SILVER SPRING – Manna Food Center, which strives to end hunger in the county, added a community food market in Silver Spring and showcased its newly renovated Gaithersburg warehouse amidst multiple celebrations on Oct. 19 and 20.
A red ribbon was cut Oct. 19 at a new food pantry in the eastern part of the county. It will enable those who are food insecure to shop for free at a market on Old Columbia Pike, which is easily accessible by public transportation.
“East County has double the rates of food insecurity” as compared to the rest of the county, noted Manna CEO Jackie DeCarlo. “We know your zip code should not determine your way of life.”
“Food is essential to everybody,” she said. “It brings people together.”
Delegate Lorig Charkoudian (D-20) called the opening “wildly exciting.”Federal food programs offer overly processed food and allocate more money to large farms than to small, local farmers, she said. Providing healthy meals reduces health care costs over the long term, Charkoudian added.
“Food insecurity is a real issue here, and that is really unacceptable” in such a wealthy county, she said.
Also speaking at the outdoor event was U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D).
“We are a very wealthy county on average,” he said, but still, “Many people are struggling.”
According to Van Hollen, in Montgomery County, 35 percent of students are on a Free and Reduced Meal federal meal plan, and 25,000 households here qualify for SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which used to be known as the food stamps program.
The 25,000 households qualifying for SNAP here mark a threefold increase over the past 10 years.
About 65,000 county residents earn too much to qualify for SNAP but still do not have enough money to always know how they will pay for their next meal, he said.
“That’s one in 15 of us,” Van Hollen said.
And there is more bad news, Van Hollen noted. The Trump Administration wants to change SNAP eligibility requirements.
If approved, that would eliminate up to 50,000 Marylanders, he said.
The newly opened pantry is expected to provide food for 11,000 people.
Rather than handing out prepared bags of fresh foods and staples, shoppers here will individually choose what they and family members will eat, thereby reducing waste.
Families will receive about 20 pounds of shelf-stable food items and 20 pounds of produce from items donated by places like Giant supermarket or purchased by Manna.
County residents can choose from shelves of canned and frozen goods as well as fresh fruit, vegetables and bread. There also are shelves of prepared meals.
DeCarlo expects about 120 people will shop at the new market each day.
County Executive Marc Elrich declared the new site, “the totally right place to be because this is where it’s needed.”
The county allocated $2.5 million for both this pantry and renovations to the Gaithersburg warehouse.
People attending the event toured the food pantry, participated in health checkups, tasted vegetarian chili as part of a cooking demonstration, munched on bags of popcorn and purchased food from two food trucks.
They also stopped by several tables piled high with information
On the following day, Oct. 20, Manna debuted its renovated warehouse. It included doubling the size of both the refrigerator and freezer and reconfiguring space to store more food.
With more space after a wall removal, it enabled Manna to reorient its storage racks. There is room for an additional 100 slots, increasing capacity from 220 bins to 330.
The renovations also enable Manna to rescue, receive, store and share up to seven million pounds of food annually.
Last year, Manna distributed about 3.5 million pounds of food to more than 30,000 county residents.
It also gave out almost 3,000 bags each week in its We Feed Children and Families smart snacks programs.