Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

Residents in Food Desert Get Helping Hand

A bag filled with chicken, rice, raisins, bottled water and other food ensured Corrine Bell wouldn’t have to ride a Metrobus or venture inside a grocery store for at least four days.

The single mother of four children received the free food at a “grab and go” grocery giveaway in the parking lot of Seat Pleasant’s municipal building on Thursday. She moved to the city about a year ago from the Bronx borough of New York City to be closer to her mother in Prince George’s County.

“It’s hard to survive,” said Bell, who’s currently unemployed. “Being in a community that has your support makes all the difference in the world.”

Because Bell resides within walking distance of the municipal complex, she didn’t need to drive like the hundreds of others with bags of groceries loaded into their trunks.

The event allowed people to received free food without the stress of standing in long lines at a grocery store where some people don’t adhere to social distancing recommendations due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition, residents from the 20743 zip code live in an area considered a food desert because it offers limited access to fresh fruit and vegetables and other affordable items. Seat Pleasant and the neighboring towns of Capitol Heights and Fairmount Heights would also be included.

The Shoppers supermarket on Central Avenue in Seat Pleasant closed a few years ago. The parent company, United Natural Foods, sold the store on Martin Luther King Jr. Highway in Landover to Compare Foods.

Within 30 minutes of the grocery giveaway in Seat Pleasant, Sen. Joanne C. Benson (D-District 24) of Landover. checked off more than 100 drivers.

Traffic stretched at least three blocks from Addison Road. Once a driver looped around parts of the neighborhood and in front of city hall, that person needed to show proof of identification.

“Whether it is a virus or whatever, these people are in need of a grocery store,” Benson said while checking off vehicle 135. “They don’t have a grocery store in which to shop in the 20743 zip code. We can’t emphasize that enough.”

Benson partnered with the city and SHABACH! Ministries to distribute 500 bags of groceries with food to last four days to supply a family of four.

SHABACH!, the nonprofit organization affiliated with First Baptist Church of Glenarden, provided the food such as fresh produce from local farms and the Capital Area Food Bank.

Cynthia Terry, president of the group, said Safeway donated frozen chicken quarters the day of the giveaway.

“We have a mission to help people in crisis,” she said. “We want to make sure everyone is safe. We want to make sure they’re fed. During this time, this is one less headache they have to worry about.”

According to 2018 U.S. Census data, the poverty rate for the three municipalities with 20743 zip codes stood at 10.7% in Capitol Heights, 13.6% Fairmount Heights 17.8% in Seat Pleasant.

“During this tragic time of this pandemic we are experiencing, people are suffering and struggling,” said Seat Pleasant Mayor Eugene W. Grant. “This resource is a great way to serve the community.”

In the meantime, seniors such as Katrina Robinson of Seat Pleasant will enjoy the fruit and try the rice provided in her grocery bag. Robinson may give the chicken to someone in her family because she doesn’t eat meat.

Robinson rarely steps out the house because she has transposition of the great arteries, a congenital heart defect in which the arteries that carry blood are reversed.

“I have congenital heart failure. While we are going through this virus, nobody coming in and nobody going out,” said Robinson, who retired nearly seven years ago from a human resources position for the federal government. “My mayor does a great job taking care of our seniors in Seat Pleasant. Providing the groceries was just another thing to help people out.”

Special Delivery

Health officials have said the coronavirus pandemic can especially affect those 60 and older, which spurred Linda Lewis to arrange for Blue Dolphin Seafood Bar and Grill to deliver food at least 20 miles away.

Lewis, who resides at Cameron Grove in Upper Marlboro, organized the delivery of nearly three dozen meals that included fried shrimp, broiled or fried flounder, string beans and other delicatessens for a $25 discount.

Lewis said her late husband, Harvey T. Lewis, “loved” Blue Dolphin, a restaurant in Crofton in neighboring Anne Arundel County, and knew co-owner Brian McCann.

“What’s being done for the seniors is just fantastic,” Lewis said. “Can’t go out anywhere and some seniors don’t drive, so bringing good food here is great for our seniors.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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