On my way to work each morning, I generally make a left turn from Route 355 onto Shady Grove Road. At each of the four corners, there is usually a person standing in the median strip, or weaving in and out of cars stopped at traffic lights, with a handwritten, cardboard sign.
Sometimes I can read the words, and sometimes they are too faint to read. Often, there are just a few words such as: “Please help me. I need money for food. I am homeless.” Once in a while, the person has more details such as the man who had a large picture of a pregnant woman and asked that drivers contribute money for toys for his new baby when it’s born as well as food for his pregnant wife.
Sometimes, drivers roll down their windows to donate a couple of dollars or give someone a sandwich. Most drivers keep their windows rolled up. Lots of emotions go through my head when I see the desperate condition of most of these folks – sadness, powerlessness, frustration, anger that such conditions exist in our supposedly affluent neighborhoods.
Montgomery County, as well as other jurisdictions, has asked that people not give money and food to the men and women begging in the intersections. Recently, a woman was run over and killed while she was soliciting for money. So, what can we do to help? Our county leaders recommend that we contribute to organizations that combat hunger. One of the most highly respected organizations in our area to do this is the Capital Area Food Bank.
During this holiday season, Sandy Spring Bank is helping fight the battle against hunger by donating meals to the Capital Area Food Bank. Founded on January 15, 1980, the same day as Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday, the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) has been valiantly fighting hunger in the Washington metro area.
With 21,000 volunteers, and just 130 staff members, CAFB distributed 45 million pounds of food – equivalent to 37.5 million meals – to nearly 500,000 people last year. Partnering with 500 soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters, youth and senior programs and other non-profit agencies, these dedicated people work to eradicate the pain of hunger and malnutrition. The CAFB not only distributes food, but also focuses on promoting nutritious, healthy food by expanding the donation of locally grown fresh produce.
I had the honor of touring the Capital Area Food Bank facility on November 18, 2013. This modern facility, paid for by the contributions of individuals and businesses in the metropolitan region, is just 1½ years old. It is an impressive building with 21,000 square feet of demonstration area to teach cooking, grocery shopping, gardening and nutrition. The food storage capacity is double compared to their previous facility.
Of the estimated 700,000 people in our geographic area who are food insecure, nearly 150,000 are children. It is a myth that hunger is not a problem in our affluent area.
It is a myth that most hungry people are homeless. It is a myth that people are hungry because they are too lazy to work. It is a myth that SNAP, also known as “food stamps,” is enough to feed a family.
The Capital Area Food Bank was established one year after the food stamp program had its first budget cut in 1979 because the need to fill the hunger gap was apparent. Today, one in six of our neighbors face hunger.
Please join us in the fight against hunger. Neighbors helping neighbors. We do make a difference together.
Sharon Hill is a Vice President and Branch Manager of Sandy Spring Bank.