With inflation rising, Frederick County food banks are seeing a growing need, and some of their customers are people who have never before sought donations.
In Frederick’s Rescue Mission, the number of visitors to the Food Distribution Center increased by nearly 600 people in July 2022 compared to July 2021. The distribution center, located at 419 W South Street in Frederick, provides fresh, non-perishable groceries to people. to take home.
“We’ve definitely seen an increase,” CEO Arnold Farlow said Thursday.
The data provided by the rescue mission showed that there were 1,419 visits to the distribution center in July 2021, compared to 2,034 visits in July 2022.
The numbers have been rising steadily since April 2022. There were 1,704 visits in April, 1,910 in May and 1956 in June. There were 1,935 visits in March.
Farlow couldn’t say for sure why the numbers were so high, but he had an idea.
“Of course, we are all sitting here assuming there is inflation,” he said in an interview at the rescue mission.
Prices are clearly rising, said Yasmine Snead, director of partnership development for the mission.
“We’ve seen it in our pocket notebooks,” she said.
The rescue mission costs about $450 to fill one of its refrigerated box trucks, according to Farlow.
The average household pays an extra $311.78 a month to “purchase the same basket of goods and services as last year,” according to a July 2022 Maryland Food Bank Food Security Research Report.
And in June, nearly 47% of families said their children “sometimes or often don’t eat enough because food was not within reach,” according to the report.
What’s needed in the grocery store affects the type of donations the Frederick Rescue mission receives, according to Snead. She said more people are buying bottled water as summer temperatures rise, for example, so fewer water bottles are coming to task.
The temperature was approaching 100 degrees Thursday outside the rescue mission as the line formed an hour before the food distribution began. Snead said they are trying to keep people in the shadows.
“It’s not just today,” Snead said.
The nonprofit also provides bags of groceries across the county to partner organizations, such as I Believe in Me, who distribute them to people in other locations. Snead said there has been an increase in the number of organizations looking for groceries to distribute their food.
“And they see people who haven’t come before,” Snead said.
Some people are walking to the rescue mission to pick up food but recently, Farlow noticed there are more vehicles in the rescue mission parking lot. He said the employees, who have their own transportation, are seeking food aid.
Food banks in the Thurmont and Urbana areas have seen a jump in need recently, too.
“The Thurmont Food Bank is definitely seeing an increase in people ordering food,” Reverend Sally Joyner Geffen wrote in an email Thursday. “Many people coming in have never needed to order food from the food bank.”
She remembered that a food bank customer had been crying lately because she was too ashamed to ask for help. The woman thanked the volunteers profusely.
“She said it was a lifesaving gift because she couldn’t afford food after paying rent and medical bills,” Joyner Geffen wrote.
The Thurmont Food Bank distributes about 15,000 pounds of food per month, and that number is growing, according to Joyner Geffen.
Joe Ostby and her husband, Larry, run the Greater Urbana Food Bank outside their home. She said they were serving 293 families as of Thursday, which represents more than 800 men, women and children.
Ostby said she’s noticed a slight uptick recently, and “the numbers are significantly different” since the COVID-19 pandemic began. One person recently told Ostby that they saw their grocery bill jump dramatically within a week, which led them to the food bank.
Disputes abroad have also affected the local food bank. Ostby said about 15 Afghan refugee families living in the area come to get food aid.
“Food bank employees need the same things that everyone else needs,” Ostby said.
In Emmitsburg and Brunswick, the need does not appear to be as dire as elsewhere in the county.
Phyllis Kelly, director of the Emmetsburg food bank, estimated that they serve about 40 families a month now, but that number was about 52 in July, which is “very high.” Kelly has seen new people at the food bank, and previous visitors coming often.
“We’re here to help you so you can pay the bills,” Kelly said Thursday.
In a Brunswick Food Bank, the numbers are on the underside. Food Bank Director Jennifer Effler said there have been fewer customers in the past few months than in previous years.
However, she is expecting more visitors when the school starts again, as the extensive free school lunch program is set to end this year. Since March 2020, all students have been eligible to receive free lunches in the cafeteria due to federal exemptions. This will not continue until the 2022-2023 school year.
There is also concern at Frederick Rescue Mission about the end of the free school lunch. Snead said there was “concern” among the rescue mission’s partners.
“It’s somewhat surprising in its transition into families,” Snead said. “We all scramble and say, ‘Oh my God, how do we make sure these kids are taken care of during this transitional period? “
Follow Mary Grace Keller on Twitter: @MaryGraceKeller
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