Childhood Hunger and Food Insecurity is REAL in Montgomery County (PHOTO)
“One in four kids in the U.S. faces hunger.”-Jeff Bridges
It’s ironic that the same day the Corporate Volunteer Council of Montgomery County (CVC-MC) hosts a discussion on childhood hunger and food insecurity in Montgomery County, a new report was released ranking Montgomery County number one in Maryland when it comes to health.
The 2016 County Health Rankings looks into more than 30 “Health Outcomes” that is measured in the following categories: health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment. This is the third year in a row the County has topped the County Health Rankings Maryland list. (The report is done in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin Population Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). Find out more here.)
Despite this ranking, disparities still remain in Montgomery County and after attending this discussion; I have personally discovered the need is great!
Mark Hodge, Sr. Administrator for Public Health Policy & Legislation at Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, said “we hear we’re one of the richest counties in the United States, but some of the richest are some of the poor and some of the healthiest are some of the unhealthiest”.
Hodge reported that over 70,000 County residents are in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). He mentioned that 70 thousand out of a million may seem small, but the need is actually greater. It is greater because there are residents in need who are not eligible for SNAP benefits because they are not documented citizens.
In Montgomery County, more than 35% of public school students are eligible for free or reduced meals during the school week. Hodge said that this is one third of the population and that this is “huge, larger than most counties in Maryland”. In perspective, that is one in four children in Montgomery County qualify for free or reduced price meals. He added that 44,000 free meals are served and 10,000 reduced meals.
One of the greatest feelings in the world is knowing that we as individuals can make a difference and one of the reasons why I have dedicated the last eight years as a CVC-MC Board Member. I thought that my simple actions of volunteering at Manna Food Center packing boxes or stocking shelves or collecting food at Giant for them; volunteering with Nourish Now collecting food, delivering food, or being a blackjack dealer at their annual Gala or volunteering at a soup kitchen a few hours every now and then was making a difference to combat food insecurity in the county. But is it? When I think about it, I am just one person. Can one person make a difference? As Hodge said, “we can’t do it alone”. Truth. However, we can make a difference one child at a time and we can make a difference if we take action together. See a child can’t wait for someone, someday. We have to be their someone, today and break the chains of hunger now.
The great news is we have some AMAZING nonprofits that are working to meet this need in our community and businesses that are engaging their employees in volunteer efforts to support their nonprofit partners.
Most of our citizenry believes that hunger only affects people who are lazy or people who are just looking for a handout, people who don’t want to work, but, sadly, that is not true. The truth is in Montgomery County the monthly income for a family of four to qualify for SNAP $2,628 or $31,536 annually. And you never know someone’s circumstances, hardships or situation. You can be working just as hard as the next guy, but your spouse may have just lost his/her job. Life is full of uncertainty.
Tara Weyer, CNSI Corporate Social Responsibility Lead, said that at CNSI they use technology in three charitable focus areas: hunger, education, and children. They work with their staff and help them imagine “what it feels like to be that person”. Weyer said that Manna and the Capital Food Bank have been wonderful partners for CNSI. CNSI is dedicated to improving health, increasing opportunity and expanding education for those most in need. They are a perfect example of how utilizing their skills, investing resources and volunteering can support local non-profit organizations and the community at large.
CNSI was the 2015 recipient of the CVC’s Emerging Volunteer Program award. The award recognizes a business that serves their community through service activities that positively impact the lives of others.
Shondra Jenkins, Executive Director, Sodexo Foundation and Director, Community Relations at Sodexo, said at Sodexo they are engaging their workforce and are committed to improving the quality of life of its employees and all those it serves in the countries where it operates. They are inspired by the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that were developed to end extreme poverty, fight inequality & injustice, and fix climate change. As part of Sodexo’s Stop Hunger commitments, their program includes everyone -employees, customers, clients, suppliers, and youth- to join forces to help fight hunger, which aligns with SDG #2. Stop Hunger actions include partnerships, community gardens, food recovery and donations, payroll giving, and volunteerism.
Sodexo was the 2015 recipient of CVC’s Partnership of the Year award. This award recognizes a member company and their nonprofit partner for their impact of work on the community in which we live and work.
We heard from various non-profit partners who are diligently working to combat food insecurity in the county. One of those non-profits is Manna Food Center.
Jenna Umbriac, Director of Nutrition Programs for Manna, spoke about Manna’s Smart Sacks program. Smart Sacks provides food for children and their families during the weekend. Items include: rice, beans, cans of fruit & vegetables, fresh sweet potatoes and apples, milk boxes and more. The program operates in 60 elementary schools and feeds nearly 2,500 children each week. More than 50 business and community organizations collaborate on behalf of this program. If you are a business that is interested in participating in this program, contact Smart Sacks Coordinator, Malori Holloman at email@example.com.
Other panelists included:
- Anais Eslami, Apex Home Loans
- Andy Burness, Burness Communications
- Ella Daniels, Capital Area Food Bank
- Stephanie Hubbard, Manna Food Center
- Brett Meyers, Nourish Now
- Judith Clark, Women Who Care Ministries
It’s astonishing; hunger is a reality for thousands of children in this County. After listening to the non-profits discuss their excellent work in the County and observing the businesses and their experiences, I am prepared to do more and better help local children and families meet their nutritional needs. All while helping local nonprofits fulfill their needs to accomplish the task at hand.
“If you want to eliminate hunger, everybody has to be involved.”-Bono
Is ending hunger in Montgomery County a goal that is literally within our grasp? How will you get involved? How will you help? #EndChildhoodHunger
Lastly, if you would like to get involved with and/or learn more about any of the above I will leave you with this. The CVC website affords its non-profit partners the opportunity to post their volunteer opportunities. You can view them at: http://cvc-mc.org/Volunteer-Opportunities mentioned non-profit partners, here is how to find them. Thank you for making an investment in your community and making it a better place to live, work and play.
Non-Profit Partners Helping to Combat Food Insecurity In Montgomery County:
Capital Area Food Bank
Manna Food Center
Women Who Care Ministries