As a 35-year hospitality professional who grew up in food and beverage, Elaine Richard already had great respect for the work of food bank. When she was asked to join the board of directors, she jumped at the opportunity. At the time, she didn’t realize that her purpose in supporting the food bank would change in a matter of weeks as the COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented challenges.
The alarming increase in the number of people impacted by food insecurity is concerning and hits close to home in the communities where Marriott does business. Of course, the issue of food insecurity isn’t unique to America, nor is it solely the result of the pandemic. But prior to 2020 it was at a two-decade low — and then came COVID and the economic decline. We were forced to temporarily close many hotels which resulted in friends, colleagues, and associates being furloughed, along with hundreds of thousands of hospitality professionals across the globe. Reality quickly sunk in that those same friends and colleagues potentially faced food insecurity for the first time in their lives.
Supporting Capital Area Food Bank became very personal at that moment.
I’ve learned in my time on the Board that hunger exists in every part of the world, in every country, and within every zip-code in our region. It does not discriminate. Here in the Greater Washington, DC area, the food bank doesn’t just feed people. They employ robust programming to empower their clients by focusing on health, education and skills development that allows them to not just make better decisions with nutrition, but also their long-term financial stability that will pave a path out of poverty and food insecurity.
The food bank did an amazing job proactively making changes in their operations to support the surge in demand for food in the region. As demand increased, they needed to secure more food to meet the needs of the community and soon ran out of storage space. The Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center stepped in and offered 40,000 sq ft of unused event space for several months so the food bank could ramp up their services to meet unprecedented need. This hotel is a shining example of Marriott’s sustainability and social impact platform, Serve 360, which puts our core value to “Serve Our World” into action.
There is more hope and optimism as we recover from this devastating pandemic, but far too many in our community will remain hungry. Feeding America projects that food insecurity levels are expected to be near historical highs through 2021. To increase our efforts to help put food on the tables of those in need, we’ve launched a campaign in partnership with the Capital Area Food Bank.
Here’s how you can help.
From June 1st through August 31st Marriott hotels in the Greater Washington, DC area will be hosting a digital food donation drive for our friends at the food bank and participating is incredibly easy.
Guests and the general public can access the virtual giving page and purchase food items that will then be gifted to the food bank and distributed to communities in need. While you can access the donation page here, guests will also see promotional and educational information in our participating area hotels. Using the QR code, guests can easily scan using their mobile device and donate immediately.
As the DC region recovers it will take support from every sector, even those that have been hard-hit themselves. Just recently during the graduation from the Kitchen Culinary Job Training Program of DC Central – one of the food bank’s largest nonprofit partners – our Chief Global Operations Officer, Erika Alexander, said “It’s around kitchens and dinner tables that we celebrate life’s greatest events, or take solace after hard days and challenges. Food and beverage is a universal experience. Something that all cultures and all generations treasure, it’s an unparalleled way of connecting with community, or just experiencing something new.” I believe that and I want to afford every family and every person that opportunity — and every little bit helps. So, I invite you to join us in supporting this campaign and humbly thank you for your consideration in helping us change the tide on food insecurity, one kitchen table at a time.