Fighting Food Insecurity by Terry Callahan

According to the Talbot County Hunger Coalition website, 1 in 5 children and 1 in 10 residents are food insecure (hungry), with 5% of those seniors living below the poverty line. Recently, the Talbot County Retired School Personnel Association (TCRSPA) presented donations to the Saint Vincent de Paul (SVDP) and the Neighborhood Service Center (NSC) Food Pantries. These pantries, among others in the county, address the problems of food insecurity for hundreds of area residents. “The TCRSPA Executive Board felt strongly that we wanted to support local food pantries. We are just grateful that we were in a position to do so,” says Terry Callahan, association president.
SVDP, under the leadership of President Alex Handy and Food Pantry Director Kate Mansfield, serves approximately 400 families each month, providing a bag of non-perishable items such as canned spaghetti sauce, baked beans, fruit, soups, tuna fish, and macaroni and cheese. Additional items include pasta, cereal, rice, powdered milk, teabags, sugar, toilet tissue and bar soap. Retiring Food Pantry Director Kathy Weaver says, “Each bag weighs around 15 lbs. (that’s non-perishable groceries that we purchase), then there is approximately another 15 lbs. of perishable donated food (meat, produce, bread, desserts, milk, eggs), snacks, and other canned items as available. We also supply diapers, formula and baby food as needed.”
The Neighborhood Service Center, Inc. under Executive Director Marilyn M. Neal, has a wide array of pantry options. There is an Emergency Food Pantry (for people with immediate hunger needs) along with a regular Food Pantry (for households that receive monthly bags of food to supplement the shortfall in their food budget/supply). Food deliveries to seniors, the disabled, those living in remote areas and those impacted by COVID-19 with food insecurities are handled via the Mobile Food Pantry, which began in 2020. There is also a daily food give-away program in partnership with the Harvest Program for individuals requiring daily food items, on average, 25-40 households.
For all the various Food Pantry services provided by NSC, there is approximately a total of 200 regular food pantry households and 138 mobile food pantry households. Annually, NSC provides approximately 750 Emergency Food Services, and 900 Regular Pantry Services are provided.
Both organizations partner with the Maryland Food Bank [MFB] to stock food items. “We purchase as many of the food items from the Maryland Food Bank as available, the rest from local stores,” says Kathy. “Difficult now because we or anyone cannot order bulk so it’s what is available at the store. The MFB has sponsored a bi-weekly Webinar for 14 months now so that their partners were aware of the state regs and Food Bank availability.”
The pandemic certainly affected the operations of the food pantries. In FY 2020, NSC provided over 4,300 additional food services as a result of the pandemic. While it maintained its hours the same as pre-pandemic, service delivery was changed due to its COVID-19 prevention policies. NSC purchased two vehicles to deliver goods and added an additional Food Pantry Coordinator for the afternoon. Prior to the pandemic, there was an onsite Food Pantry Coordinator between 8am – 12:00 noon. Now NSC has coverage between the hours of 8am – 4:00 pm. In addition, NSC installed markers for social distancing; placed masks and information on COVID-19 prevention in food delivery bags and set stations outdoors to cover food lines during the shut-down.
At SVDP, Kathy says, “We became a drive-through pantry thanks to wonderful selfless volunteers…The drivers of our truck continued to pick up from the stores (that dwindled to a fraction of what we had been picking up), the volunteers that sorted and unloaded the truck continued to work, the volunteers that bagged and prepared for distribution continued, and last, but certainly not least, the 8 people who worked twice a week in some very inclement weather continued to help those in need. The same people for thirteen months! Are they heroes or what??? We’re very proud of them!”
Due to increased demand and difficulties obtaining foods in bulk, both food pantries have needed to make additional food purchases. Both organizations accept food and monetary donations. SVDP accepts food donations during its open hours: Tues-1-4, Sat 9-12. If that is inconvenient, a message left at its call-in line (410-770-4505) will get a return call and arrangement for drop-off made. For the Neighborhood Service Center, food can be dropped off Monday – Friday, between the hours of 8:00am – 4:00pm. For large drop-offs, contact NSC at (410) 822-5015 to make special arrangements.

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