Hunger conference stresses need to provide for many
Meals of Hope food truck, SNAP time limits major topics at Hunger Conference & Resource Day
The ninth annual Southern Maryland Hunger and Resource Conference was a day full of information and fellowship for food and service providers, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and volunteers from around the Southern Maryland region.
The Hunger & Resource Conference was hosted by Southern Mar yland Food Bank and
Outreach Services and located at the Loyola Retreat House on April 19. This year’s event included a presentation from the Maryland Hunger Solutions about the impact of SNAP benefits for single adults and a networking session sponsored by the Southern Maryland Food Council.
Theresa Murphy, outreach coordinator at Southern Maryland Food Bank, described the conference as enlightening, supportive and community oriented.
“In Southern Maryland there are so many organizations that can be on opposite ends of each county and not be aware the others exist or what they are doing [their mission or purpose]. Today they see that they are not alone in this walk,” Murphy said.
Brenda DiCarlo, director of the Southern Maryland Food Bank, said the conference was for everyone to connect and find partners. It even allowed DiCarlo to give at least 20 organizations and agencies updates about the new Meals of Hope mobile food truck.
“We highlighted the Food Bank’s Snack Sak Program, senior meals program, Giving Hope Food Pantry, and the community learning garden which is huge this season,” DiCarlo said. “We need to get the word out that we have all these programs and we need help because cooking and coordinating Meals of Hope has become difficult.”
DiCarlo said since the creation of the food truck on Oct. 5, 2016, it feeds approximately 150 people two nights a week in Charles County and she hopes to soon be able to expand it to St. Mary’s County. However, they are currently lacking the resources to sustain the mobile meals program in Charles County.
Brenda Canter from St. Ignatius Church in Chapel Point said the Meals of Hope food truck is in desperate need of cooks.
“[DiCarlo] and her small staff of three are coming to our church to cook these meals, in addition to the ladies at St. Ignatius — eight women over the age of 70 years old — who come in once a month to cook,” Canter said. “If we had more sponsors and cooks all [DiCarlo] would need to do is stop by to pick up the meals and go to the host site and serve it. We need it structured here in Charles County first before they can expand it to St. Mary’s County.”
Jessica Conjour, project leader of University of Maryland Extension Food Supplement Nutrition Education (FSNE) and Family Consumer Sciences (FCS), attended the hunger conference to help connect local food pantries with healthy food resources.
“Food pantries are a good point for us to reach our target audience which are those are utilizing food stamps or SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] — a domestic hunger safety net which provided nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families,” Conjour said. “SNAP is the best kept secret in Southern Maryland so we want to connect to people and see what we can provide for them.”
Michael J. Wilson, director of Maryland Hunger Solutions, presented additional SNAP information, specifically about the ABAWD or “Able-bodied Adults Without Dependents” time limits. He said as of Jan. 1, 2016, new SNAP time limits have gone into effect in Maryland.
According to Maryland Hunger Solutions, the new time limits restrict individuals, who are 18 to 49 years old, to three months of SNAP benefits in a 36-month time period if they are not exempt or participating in a qualified work, training, education or volunteer activity for 20 hours a week, according to federal law.
“In our experience, many ABAWD are working but may not be getting enough hours or income which is why they are on food stamps,” Wilson said. “But there are volunteer and outreach organizations, from pantries to churches, available so that they don’t lose those benefits. Many of these outreach organizations can help people understand the ABAWD regulations. If they are informed then they can help spread the word.”
Wilson said there are more than 700,000 people in the State of Maryland who use the food stamp program — families with children, the elderly, disabled and people with short-term unemployment.
“Maryland is the wealthiest state in the country but still we have a lot of poverty,” Wilson said.
Those who attended the conference said the event was a great collaboration of networks.
Bonnie Blankenship, food pantry director at the nonprofit The Mission located in Great Mills, and volunteer Kathy Jo Boggs, said the Maryland Hunger Solutions presentation about ABAWD Time Limits had a huge impact on them.
“The Maryland Hunger Solutions was huge for me because we have a lot of clients in St. Mary’s County who are homeless,” Blankenship said. “To find out that a lot of these people who come to eat at The Mission everyday will lose some of their benefits, but all they need are volunteer hours is a really big deal. A lot of our clients fit right into that category.”
Margaret Payne, community services manager at LifeStyles Inc. said she was able to connect with organizations who have potential clients in need of transportation.
“[LifeStyles] does give out VanGo passes but a lot of times VanGo can’t go out of the county,” Payne said. “We take people to doctor appointments in Clinton and Washington, D.C., and grocery shopping, during various scheduling hours. We are looking for more clients and we hope to get two more 15-passenger buses to continue transporting people.”
Jakia Ball, Samaritan Project coordinator at LifeStyles Inc., said the conference was very informative and she enjoyed hearing about the Meals of Hope food truck, which is a much needed program in the community.
“At the conference we got to connect and interact with others who are of the same mindset,” Ball said. “We’re all about helping the community, no judgment, and allowing people to be able to receive the food available at local pantries.”
DiCarlo said the conference allowed these service providers to share information that many were unaware of.
“But the impact of that information is that we are now armed with it so we can now make adjustments to help support that portion of the community,” DiCarlo said.
Theresa Murphy, outreach coordinator at Southern Maryland Food Bank, and Brenda DiCarlo, director of the Southern Maryland Food Bank, talk at the ninth annual Southern Maryland Hunger and Resource Conference in Newburg on April 19.
Michael J. Wilson, director of Maryland Hunger Solutions, and Ashley Worthington, senior program associate at Maryland Hunger Solutions, handed out information about the ABAWD, or “Able-bodied Adults Without Dependents,” time limits, at the ninth annual Southern Maryland Hunger & Resource Conference.
More than 20 food and service providers, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and volunteers from around the Southern Maryland region attended the ninth annual Southern Maryland Hunger and Resource Conference on April 19.