Photo by Flickr user woodleywonderworks via Flickr Creative Commons.

The Maryland Food Bank received a $300,000 donation from Giant Food to combat hunger and food insecurity, and to provide healthy food to vulnerable populations throughout the state, especially children.

Giant Food donated the money to the Maryland hunger relief organization at a ceremony on March 22 at Billie Holiday Elementary School in West Baltimore. The funds, which were donated through the Giant Family Foundation, will support MFB’s School Pantry Program.

According to the Baltimore Financial Times, “Giant Food has partnered with MFB for decades and regularly supports the nonprofit in a variety of ways, from volunteering assistance, to direct food donations, to monetary donations and fundraising campaigns.”

Studies demonstrate that hungry students have a harder time concentrating and behaving in school. According to the National Education Association, “When students participate in school meals programs, their behavior, comprehension, and attendance improve.”

Jonathan Arons, communications and community relations manager for Giant Food, noted that thousands of students in Baltimore City struggle with chronic food insecurity.

“Unfortunately, we know that the need is still there which is why it is important for us to continue to support MFB and other programs that fight food insecurity,” Arons said. “This program will help provide millions of meals again this year to help make sure our youth are food secure and can succeed.”

The Maryland Food Bank School Pantry Program at Billie Holiday Elementary School serves between 35 and 40 families a month. Last year, the program operated out of 178 schools, providing nearly 2.3 million meals.

Giant Food’s donation comes at a critical time. According to the Baltimore Financial Times, inflation and the rising cost of food has hit the Maryland Food Bank hard, and the cost of running food distribution has also reduced their purchasing power. The donation, though, “will enable MFB to distribute an estimated 2.5 million pounds of food to nearly 200 schools statewide.”

Estimating that approximately 24,000 households will receive food assistance through Giant’s donation to the school pantries, Maryland Food Bank officials said, “We’re grateful to Billie Holiday Elementary School for hosting us for this very special event, and of course, to Giant Food for the incredible donation.” 

Baltimore City has struggled with food inequity and food insecurity for decades. According to the Afro, one-third of city residents live in what’s known as a “food desert,” or, as Baltimore City calls them, a “Healthy Food Priority Area.” These areas are defined by four factors:

  • An area where the distance to a supermarket or supermarket alternative is more than a quarter of a mile
  • The median household income is at or below 185 percent of the Federal Poverty Level
  • Over 30 percent of households have no vehicle available
  • The average Healthy Food Availability Index (HFAI) score for all food stores is low

Priority Areas affect 31 percent of Black residents, more than three times the percentage of white residents (9 percent). Twenty-eight percent of Baltimore City’s children live in these Priority Areas, and 24 percent of Baltimore’s senior citizens also lack access to high quality food options close to where they live.

Baltimore City government has a strategy for tackling food insecurity for its citizens and touts its accomplishments and work with community organizers and food distribution programs. They were awarded more than $11 million of American Rescue Plan Act funding for their proposal, “Improving Nutritional Security, Food Access, and Food Equity in Baltimore City During and After COVID-19.” Baltimore City Food Policy and Planning has distributed more than one million pounds of fresh produce and more than eight million servings of fruits and vegetables since June 2022.