Grants awarded to organizations fighting food insecurity

Jul. 12—Thirteen local organizations working to combat food insecurity in the area received $350,000 in grants this month from The Community Foundation of Frederick County: They are: —Blessings in a Backpack, Frederick Chapter —Brunswick Ecumenical Assistance Committee on Needs, Inc. —Frederick Community College Foundation —Friends for Neighborhood Progress —Hood College —Islamic Society of Frederick Inc. —Maryland Food Bank —Maryland Hunger Solutions —Platoon 22 —Steadfast — Standing Firm Against Youth Homelessness Inc. —Supporting Older Adults through Resources Inc. (SOAR) —Thurmont Senior Center Inc. —YMCA of Frederick County

Thirteen local organizations working to combat food insecurity in the area received $350,000 in grants this month from The Community Foundation of Frederick County.

The Community Foundation awarded one-year grants, financed by money awarded to the county by the U.S. Treasury Department, to local nonprofits whose programs alleviate food insecurity, according to a news release from the foundation on Wednesday.

The nonprofits include organizations that operate food banks, provide food to senior citizens and veterans, and more.

Hood College received $37,200 in grant funding for its Frederick Food Security Network program, under the college's coastal and watershed studies center.

The program grows produce on Hood College's campus and coordinates community gardens across the Frederick area, so residents facing food insecurity can have access to fresh produce at no cost.

"If people don't have a car, they have a hard time getting food from markets, and in that case, they're left to get processed food from fast-food locations or stop-and-shop locations. None of those sorts of venues provide fresh produce," said Drew Ferrier, a professor at Hood College who is the director of the coastal and watershed studies center.

The Food Security Network will primarily use its new grant funding to refurbish and improve its greenhouses, Ferrier said, including by building infrastructure to employ new methods like hydroponic growing over the next year.

Food insecurity in the area worsened in recent years because of the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation, according to Betsy Day, the Community Foundation's president and CEO.

This year and last year, the Community Foundation saw an incredibly high number of applications for food insecurity grants, Day said.

"We were hoping to see the need decrease ... but with other factors affecting their ability to have stability financially, food insecurity is still anecdotally at a high in Frederick County," she said.

She added that the issue disproportionately affects families with children, senior citizens and those experiencing substance abuse disorders.

According to the United Way of Frederick County's 2023 ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) report — which provides statistics about people who work but struggle to afford basic living expenses — 36% of Frederick County households cannot afford necessities including food.

The report said that since the pandemic, the area has seen "sustained high levels of food insufficiency."

In Frederick County, over 19,000 residents participate in Maryland's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), according to nonprofit Maryland Hunger Solutions.

About 6,000 people per year receive Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) assistance, which provides health referrals and food assistance to mothers and young children.

Multiple organizations that provide food assistance to youth received grants from the Community Foundation, including the Frederick chapter of Blessings in a Backpack.

The nonprofit received $75,000 to support its weekend food program for youth, which the chapter's managing director, Angela Abrishami, said provides food to about 4,300 children annually.

Blessings in a Backpack primarily provides resources to students who are eligible for free and reduced-price school meals, and may not have access to healthy, nourishing foods while away from school, Abrishami said. The organization plans to use its grant to feed about 500 children per week.

"Our vision is that every child in Frederick has the nourishment to learn and grow," she said. "Every little bit helps."