For the past 25 years, Ransom Miller III has had hundreds of volunteers from schools, professional and fraternal organizations come to his designated site to fill, process and deliver food bags for the needy during the Thanksgiving holiday season in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area on behalf of his nonprofit, Project GiveBack.
Miller said this year his operation has changed because of the coronavirus pandemic in the Washington region. Despite the virus, the goal of Project GiveBack continues to be to aid those in need.
“This year, we distributed 2,100 food bags to people in the D.C. area,” he said. “We distributed about 2,000 bags to people in D.C. and Maryland and gave out about 200 gift cards to people in Virginia.”
Miller said his food items are needed more than ever, noting the sagging economy due to the pandemic. His observations are backed by data from the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute which said in a Sept. 17 report–“Before the Pandemic, D.C.’s Economy was Booming, But COVID-19 is Increasing Hardship”—that many District residents are barely getting by as the pandemic continues.
The Institute reported:
– About 63,000 — 12 percent of all adults in the city reported living in a household where there was not enough food to eat in the last seven days. The rate more than doubled to 25 percent for adults in D.C. households with children, well above the pre-pandemic figure.
– An estimated 26,000 District adults who lived in rental housing — 11 percent — were behind on rent.
– Half of the District’s children who live in renter households were not getting enough to eat, living in households behind on rent or both, for the survey period between June 18 to July 21.
In the past, Miller would have one central distribution point to do the work and it would be done in one day. However, because of District COVID-19 restrictions, he has made some changes.
“We had eight sites for people to go to grab their food boxes and go,” he said. “We did this on Saturday, Nov. 21 and Sunday, Nov. 22 as opposed to just a Saturday. We wanted to stay within the rules of the jurisdictions so we limited the number of volunteers at a site and the number of people who can get food at a time.”
Martha’s Table, located in Ward 8, had a one-day operation on Nov. 21 in conjunction with the ward’s Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church. In addition to the church’s Morris Road., S.E. site as a food distribution point, Stanton Elementary School, 16th and Good Hope Road., S.E. and the United Planning Organization’s Petey Green Community Service Center gave out food boxes as a part of the joint effort.
Staffers and volunteers of Martha’s Table and the church distributed food boxes for people in their cars and those on foot. Martha’s Table Chief Program Officer, Tiffany Williams, said she, like Miller, has noticed a need for more food since the pandemic started.
“There is a tremendous need in our community,” Williams said. “Before the pandemic, we would give food to 1,000 people per month and now we give 2,000 people food per day. The demand for food hasn’t gone down since March, when the pandemic started.”
The Players’ Lounge, an eatery located in Ward 8 on Martin Luther King Jr., Avenue, S.E. will be open on Thanksgiving and serve anyone who comes to the establishment.
“We are opening the restaurant on Thanksgiving to feed the homeless mainly,” Angela Thompson, a manager at Players said. “We will take in anyone because we know that times are tough with the virus going around and people losing their jobs or having their hours cut. We have done this for several years. We won’t turn anyone away.”