During this week’s Montgomery County Food Security Appreciation, the volunteers who purchased, packaged, cooked, delivered and distributed food to the needy were thanked for both their hard work and their compassion.
“Without your working with us to pull us in the right direction, we couldn’t get there,” County Marc Elrich said to those gathered at Silver Spring Christian Reformed Church.
During the past two years, more than 100,000 residents experienced food insecurity. The county used $3.6 million in grants to enable 140 food providers to make sure no one when hungry. Those providers distributed more than 27,100,000 prepared meals, according to a proclamation from the county government.
Jennifer Renkema, director of the food pantry at Silver Spring Christian Reformed Church, said her church used to offer food one day a month. When the pandemic hit, they increased it continually as the needs grew. Now, about 370 volunteers from the church and nearby synagogues spend hours getting the food ready for distribution.
“At each phase, someone in our community stepped up,” she said. “The community has made this happen.”
County President Gabe Albornoz told the volunteers how they inspired him for both their efforts and “their level of love,” adding, “Your effort and spirit and work has done more than save lives.”
Fifty percent of the 120 organizations involved are faith-based, said Heather Bruskin, executive director of the county Food Council. “We are a lot stronger as a community,” she noted.
Prior to the speeches, Elrich toured the Capital Kosher Pantry in Silver Spring, which started without a refrigerator or freezer but with the assistance of neighbors. It has since grown to be a choice pantry, where those eligible make an appointment to shop for free, choosing the foods their families will eat.
They plan to expand to a new location in Silver Spring, pending zoning board approval.
“Unfortunately the need increased. It just has grown,” said Manager Susan Koss.
The pantry volunteers share their food with other organizations, particularly when they receive food that is not kosher. In turn, nearby food pantry workers give them their kosher food.
Elrich also visited LaVilla Restaurant on Frederick Avenue in Gaithersburg. The owner, Edwin Arbaiza, has been cooking and giving out food to those who are hungry. He has fed isolated seniors who didn’t leave their homes and provided lots of pizzas so young people affected by the flood at Rock Creek Woods Apartments on Twinbrook Parkway in September of 2021 could have a birthday party, noted Patrick Campbell, senior planning manager with Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services.
Campbell thanked all those involving, stating, “From darkness came hope.”
Although the COVID-19 cases currently low, Elrich noted, “The food needs are still going to be there. The hunger is still going to be there.”
Today I got to be the Master of Ceremony for the Proclamation/celebration of Food Security Task Force/food providers by our County Executive and Council President. I also got to do the Opening Remarks in a speech I titled from Darkness Came hope. pic.twitter.com/FVB2pIGNUZ
— Patrick M. Campbell (@Patrickcamp100) March 30, 2022