With nearly half of those ages 12 and older who reside or work in Prince George’s County receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, a few clinics closed as the supply has increased over the demand.
However, weekly food giveaways continue for residents such as Patrick Robinson and his wife, Maria de Houx Robinson of Hyattsville. The couple joined dozens of other motorists lined up in vehicles snaking around the corner to receive boxes and bags of food outside Ebenezer Church of God.
Both got laid off last year from their jobs in Montgomery County – Robinson worked 45 years at Chevy Chase Country Club and de Houx Robinson 19 years assisting some senior citizens who reside at Leisure World of Maryland in Silver Spring.
“We’re here to get food. We need it,” Robinson said. “Black people are paying the price right now, but God is stepping up.”
The church served as one of three locations Saturday, June 5 as part of County Executive Angela Alsobrooks’ “Stand Up & Deliver” food distribution initiative. Some of the food included bread, fruit, vegetables and eggs.
Ebenezer Church distributed 600 boxes of food. It also received a donation of fruit, salad and other items Saturday from Celestial Manna of Montgomery County.
Since the pandemic affected the county last year, the Church distributed food for more than 25,000 families and counting.
“A lot of times the lines go back into the community over a mile long,” said the Rev. Christopher Benjamin, associate pastor at Ebenezer. “People come from near and far. There is a need.”
According to the Capital Area Food Bank, which provides and assesses food programs throughout the D.C. region, the coronavirus pandemic increased hunger by 50% and an estimated 211,000 children became deprived of consistent nutritious meals.
The organization’s “Hunger Report 2020” notes Prince George’s has 104,780 people “who are food insecure,” or lack resources to provide affordable and healthy food options.
The majority-Black jurisdictions ranked in the report among Montgomery County in Maryland, the District of Columbia and the city of Alexandria and Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William counties in Virginia.
To address the demand for healthy food and lack of it in certain areas of Prince George’s, the County Council voted last year to create a Food Security Task Force.
The council set a deadline of June 30 for the 21-member group to present the council with a report of recommendations, but the group agreed it needed more time that includes distribution of a community survey.
To outline some of the proposals, the task force separated into three groups – individual, Family and Community; Food Assistance Provider Capacity and Coordination; Government Agency and Systems Response.
The task force met Friday, June 4 and reviewed a recent session of a fourth group, Food Systems, Policy and Planning.
The recommendations at https://bit.ly/3z5SUQf include:
- Provide small grants for activities related to social cohesion and food security.
- Make food insecurity a line item in the county budget.
- Identify and designate critical food facilities in each neighborhood for prioritized access and recovery support.
One visible item residents are expected to see this summer will be a grocery food truck.
The council approved a resolution last week for a vendor to sell items such as dry goods, fresh fruits and vegetables and dairy products in locations with limited access to grocery stores.
“It will bring so much need and access to healthy food in the county,” said Roberto Melara, a member of the task force who represents the Capital Area Food Bank, which helped create the legislation.
Some county residents and officials envision the long food lines to continue throughout the year, especially with Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision to end enhanced unemployment benefits by July 3. The benefits included an additional $300 per week in payments.
“I want to ask Gov. Hogan if he was in my shoes, would he ask for the cutoff?” de Houx Robinson said. “We pay more than $300 in taxes. God has got me, though.”