By Johanna Anderson, Baltimore intern
Like most non-profits, the Maryland Food Bank is suffering a steep decline in donations during this recession. But, as it gears up for its busy season—the holidays—the Bank has come up with a twist on its traditional model that is already showing results: a virtual food drive.
At mdfoodbank.org, donors can fill a virtual grocery cart with fruits, vegetables, cereals, and proteins like milk, peanut butter, and canned chicken and tuna. There are also package deals: pick up full dinners (e.g. mac ‘n’ cheese or beef stew) or pay for a full bag of groceries, enough to feed one hungry Marylander for a week. Also available for purchase are the holiday boxes that accompany the turkeys that the Food Bank distributes to families during the season. The boxes will contain cans of pumpkin and corn, cranberry and apple sauces, stuffing, gravy, and more.
The stakes are exceptionally high this year: Donated product is at an all-time low, and demand at an all-time high. “We have seen a 27 percent increase in demand for our services over this time last year,” says Food Bank communications director Audra Harrison. “Middle-class families who have faced radical adjustments to their economic resources are finding themselves at food pantries for the first time in their lives.”
Donations made via the virtual drive will be used to purchase the designated foods at wholesale cost, helping the Food Bank to make the most of every dollar.
“[The virtual food drive] is an easy and convenient way for people to help in their communities,” says Food Bank CEO Deborah Flateman. “And an innovative way to get our most-needed items.”