Maryland Food Bank, one of the state’s leading hunger relief organizations, was the recipient of a hefty donation from Giant Food that will allow the nonprofit to further its mission in fighting hunger and food insecurity through providing a reliable source of healthy food to children and families in the region.
In a brief ceremony on the morning of March 22, 2023 at Billie Holiday Elementary School in West Baltimore, Giant Food representatives presented a $300,000 check to Maryland Food Bank (MFB) that will support the organization’s School Pantry Program. School leaders were also in attendance.
The donation was made through the grocer’s Giant Family Foundation.
Among the most well-known grocers in the Mid-Atlantic, Giant Food has partnered with MFB for decades and regularly supports the nonprofit in a variety of ways, from volunteering assistance, to direct food donations, to monetary donations and fundraising campaigns.
Studies show that students are more likely to succeed when they are well nourished. Fighting hunger has always been Giant’s top charitable pillar, according to a company spokesman.
“Kids are more likely to exceed in and out of school when they are not hungry,” said Jonathan Arons, the communications and community relations manager for Giant Food.
Arons said that he and his colleagues enjoyed their time at Billie Holiday Elementary School while getting to speak with school and food bank leaders. Giant Food representatives visited the school’s pantry and learned more about how the program benefits their students, Arons added.
While the check presentation signified a major victory for local students and families and was a monumental step in the fight against hunger, there still remains much work to be done, Arons noted. Thousands of Baltimore City residents, many of whom are children in the public school system, face the harsh realities of chronic food insecurity while living in food deserts.
“Unfortunately, we know that the need is still there which is why it is important for us to continue to support MFB and other programs that fight food insecurity,” he said. “This program will help provide millions of meals again this year to help make sure our youth are food secure and can succeed.”
Billie Holiday Elementary School has housed one of MFB’s School Pantry Program sites since 2014, serving anywhere between an estimated 35 to 40 families a month. Last year, the program operated out of 178 school sites and distributed enough food to provide nearly 2.3 million meals.
The grant funding will help support MFB youth programs — known collectively as “MFB Kids” — including the nonprofit’s school pantry, supper club and summer clubs. In the past, MFB has used Giant’s funding to help its youth program partner stores and distribute perishable, healthy foods with the purchase of refrigerators, freezers, coolers and thermal blankets while raising awareness around healthy eating by producing a series of informative nutritional videos.
As part of the 2023 Fighting Child Hunger grant, MFB leaders will be able to help food-insecure children and their families gain access to more than two million pounds of nutritious food through school-based pantries, according to an MFB statement.
“We’re grateful to Billie Holiday Elementary School for hosting us for this very special event, and of course, to Giant Food for the incredible donation,” MFB officials said.
“We know it’s going to take a long time for this economy to recover from all the headwinds it’s currently facing. In fact, we expect the elevated need for food assistance to continue for many months, if not years, to come.”
Approaching the new year, the food bank’s purchasing power was reduced by more than half due to inflation and the rising cost of food. Consequently, the cost of the organization’s core business, which is food distribution, has increased significantly. Fortunately, Giant’s investment will enable MFB to distribute an estimated 2.5 million pounds of food to nearly 200 schools statewide.
According to MFB, approximately 24,000 households will receive access to food assistance through this donation to these school pantries.
Billie Holiday Elementary, located between the Midtown Edmondson and Mosher neighborhoods in the heart of West Baltimore, is situated within a food desert, highlighting the need for access to essential resources such as the MFB food pantry.
“The Maryland Food Bank’s presence in Baltimore City is more important than ever, especially since most of our school pantries reside in Community Schools that serve as hubs of resources for their communities,” MFB told The Baltimore Times.
“With continued partnerships from corporations like Giant Food, we’re in a better position to meet the evolving needs of all communities facing hunger all across Maryland, including Baltimore City.”