On most gamedays, people stream through the gates at Camden Yards ready to enjoy a baseball game. On Wednesday, what was leaving the ballpark carried far more significance.
Teams of volunteers from Baltimore’s corporate community braved a November chill on the stadium’s main concourse this morning to pack bags containing a holiday feast for those in need. The Maryland Food Bank’s “Pack to Give Back Local” will provide 12,600 meals - turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce and all the trimmings - to more than 50,000 folks across Maryland who otherwise might not have a holiday dinner. About 1,600 of those meals - each feeding a family of four - will be distributed in the greater Baltimore area.
“The holidays aren’t the same if you’re hungry,” says Carmen Del Guercio, president and chief executive officer of the Maryland Food Bank. “To take this issue off their plate so they don’t have to worry about whether they can serve their families and just to bring a family together and for a few hours forget some of the challenges they’re facing, that’s incredibly powerful.”
The Orioles joined other corporate partners to pack paper bags that were later paired with frozen turkeys and distributed across Maryland. Volunteers at 20 such events statewide will prepare meals that will be distributed to 1,250 Maryland Food Bank partners and, ultimately, to community members in need. Gold sponsors for this year’s events include BGE, Transamerica, Venable and the Baltimore Orioles Food & Funds Drive.
While thankful to the corporate community for stepping up, Del Guercio says many area residents don’t comprehend the immense need to feed their hungry neighbors. According to the Maryland Food Bank, one in nine Marylanders are “food insecure,” with more than 680,000 falling into that category and in-state residents missing more than 122 million meals a year.
“We hear a lot of good things - the economy is getting better, unemployment is down, the state of Maryland has a lot of things going for it. Things have got to be pretty good, right?” says Del Guercio. “But the reality is there’s underemployment, there’s still people not making enough to make ends meet and the cost of living in this state is probably more than people realize. All of those factors come together and the need is still pretty significant. The corporate community coming out, hearing that, and having a better appreciation and understanding of the magnitude of the problem is important for us. ... I think this is an issue that’s often taken for granted.”
Spending $60-$70 on a Thanksgiving meal might not seem like an extravagance, Del Guercio says - until you realize that someone may be choosing between feeding their family on the holiday and other critical needs. Unfortunately, about a third of those who are food insecure make too much money to qualify for assistance programs.
“They’re already having a hard time to make ends meet,” he says. “You’re making tradeoffs: Do I want to pay a heating bill or medical expenses or rent? Every day, there’s folks making choices - food or this, food or that. If we can take the food aspect off the table - pardon the pun - we put them in a better position to meet some of their other needs.”
Luckily, Marylanders are giving in times of need, and the holiday season is when nonprofits like the Maryland Food Bank see an uptick in giving. Del Guercio hopes that Marylanders will dig deep - in terms of both food and monetary donations - to ensure that their neighbors don’t have to go hungry.
To learn more about Maryland Food Bank programs, click here. To make a financial donation to the organization’s mission, click here. To donate food through Maryland Food Bank’s virtual food drive, click here.