Volunteers needed to help distribute meals to Eastern Shore counties amid virus

(March 27, 2020) The Maryland Food Bank of the Eastern Shore is seeking financial support and volunteers to maintain distribution services from Kent County to Worcester County in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eastern Shore Food Bank Director of Regional Services Jennifer Small said providing food for people on the Eastern Shore has become challenging due to a recent decline in donations.

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Jennifer Small

“We’re raising money because we’re having to purchase more and more food with food donations dwindling,” she said. “We are also bringing down emergency products so we can work with other entities.”

Small said the Maryland Food Bank is coordinating with local emergency service departments, management boards and county government offices to address needs stemming from the public health crisis.

The Eastern Shore region includes every county east of the Chesapeake Bay bridge except Cecil County on the peninsula’s northern end, because it’s part of another Food Bank program.

“Our central hub for the Eastern Shore region is in Salisbury,” she said. “We are taking donations of products to sort and get back into our inventory system so that our partners can actually order online.

“For the Maryland Food Bank, every dollar that is donated helps us to provide three meals,” she said. “We’re able to leverage that financial contribution to do a lot more.”

Besides money, the Food Bank is also seeking volunteers.

“A lot of our volunteer base is seniors [and] a lot of them are special needs,” she said. “With all of the closings and restrictions for the state, we have lost that.”

Small’s goal is to get enough help at the Food Banks central distribution hub in Salisbury to continue the mission, albeit with proper safety precautions.

“My biggest focus has been how do we get volunteers in here, because the work still has to be done … and then exercising safety,” she said.

Precautionary steps include wearing gloves, breaking groups into less than 10 people and following social distancing guidelines.

“Making sure we have a lull in between to sanitize the work stations,” she said. “All of those safety measures that we’re also urging our partners to do.”

Small said anyone interested in aiding the cause should call 410-742-0050.

“We just want them to call so we can make sure we set everybody up in a safe way,” she said. “Our biggest ask is, if they’re over 60 they need to stay home, if they’re health compromised they need to stay home, and if they live somewhere someone in their family is health compromised they need to stay home.”

The Food Bank is also launching a “Back Up Box” campaign for area households in need.

“We’re trying to build these emergency backup boxes, kind of as a last resort so that if we do run into any issues, we do have these backup boxes,” she said. “It’s a 30-pound box that will actually provide about a week’s worth of food for a family of four.”

The boxes are filled with staples such as pasta, peanut butter and canned goods, and the Food Bank hopes to assemble and distribute 36,000 of them across the state.

Small also said the Food Bank would continue providing food for school pantries.

“It is amazing the community spirit, that unfortunately it takes something like this to really see that everybody’s really coming together and trying to do whatever they can to make sure our families don’t have a lack of access when it comes to food,” she said.

To support the “Back Up Box” campaign visit www.mdfoodbank.org /backupbox and to learn more about volunteering call 410-742-0050.

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