County announces private donations to help combat food insecurity

County announces private donations to help combat food insecurity

Goal is to raise $5 million in private donations, in addition to $10.3 million the County Council approved

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David Blair said on Saturday that he and his wife Mikel are committing $100,000 to combat food insecurity in Montgomery County

Photo by Dan Schere

Montgomery County officials on Saturday announced $325,000 in private funding from companies and organizations that will help address food insecurity.

Last week the County Council approved $10.3 million  to create the Montgomery County Food Security Fund.  The money will be used to address the needs of residents, improve food distribution methods and help purchase food from local farmers and restaurants, among other things.

The Food Security Fund is a public-private partnership between the county and the Greater Washington Community Foundation. Of the $10.3 million the county has committed, $300,000 will be paid to the community foundation to administer the program.  

During a press conference on Saturday outside of the East County Recreation Center in the White Oak area, Potomac businessman and philanthropist David Blair announced that he and his wife Mikel would be donating $100,000 to the fund.  

Blair, in an interview, pointed to the long line of cars at the community center for a food distribution near the press conference, and said he has seen similar lines of cars at other pickup sites around the county.

“The demand is overwhelming,” he said.

Blair said he is hopeful that other benefactors in the county will also contribute to the food security fund.

“There’s been a flood of economic activity in the philanthropic community to address food insecurity,” he said.

In addition to Blair, a representative of Washington Gas announced the company will contribute $100,000 to the fund. And Rev. Matthew Watley, a pastor at Kingdom Fellowship AME Church, said his church had already committed $125,000. He said the church plans to give more money in the future.

Several people at the press conference discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated food insecurity in the county.

“The numbers are really hard to predict, but I can say that this time last year, we were serving in our monthly program about 3,100 families, and now it’s closer to 4,200 families. So it is clearly an increase,” said Jackie DeCarlo, the CEO of the Manna Food Center.

Earl Stoddard, the director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management & Homeland Security, said the county is dealing with “two emergencies right now.”:

“The coronavirus is one emergency, and the economic impacts that have been created by the coronavirus is a whole separate emergency, and we know that’s going to be with us for a very long time,” he said.

Council Member Andrew Friedson said in an interview that the council hopes that $5 million will be raised in private donations. He encouraged residents to donate individually on the community foundation’s website.

“They are accepting large contributions that you heard today… but it’s also setting up an opportunity for every resident who has the opportunity to give a little. Everybody can give $25, $50, whatever they’re capable of doing,” he said.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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