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The Covid-19 Pandemic

by Mark Reutter7:06 pmApr 21, 20200

A doubling of free meals promised for Baltimore, but not nearly enough for expected needs

The expanded program would translate into one meal every fifth day for residents in need of food assistance

Above: Mayor Young confers with his spokesman Lester Davis during the presentation of his food strategy in front of City Hall. (CharmTV)

Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young today unveiled a plan to double the number of free meals in Baltimore in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

But the increase falls far short of reaching the projected needs of a city where tens of thousands are now unemployed.

Over the next two months, Young said he hopes to increase the number of meals distributed to residents to 2.5 million, plus 70,000 grocery boxes and up to 12,000 household grocery supplements.

While nearly double the 700,000 meals distributed between March 16 and April 16, the program would not cover the food deficit predicted by the mayor’s own advisors.

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The Department of Planning and the Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success forecasts that “at least one in three Baltimore residents” – or 200,000 people – will require food assistance by June.

Stretched over such a large population, the mayor’s 2.5 million meals would supply 6.25 meals a month per person – or one meal every fifth day for those expected to be hungry.

Today’s announcement did not address the gap between demand and supply. In a written statement, Young said, “I am committed to doing everything possible to meet the needs of our residents,” while mayoral aide Tisha Edwards vowed that “no one in Baltimore goes hungry during the pandemic.”

“I am committed to doing everything possible to meet the needs of our residents”  – Mayor Jack Young.

After taking a few questions on other matters, Young left the press conference. Efforts to reach his spokesman tonight have not been successful.

Meal Breakdowns

Under the expanded food strategy, the city will continue to supply daily meals for youth and families who qualify under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The administration plans to help the homeless and undocumented residents by launching “a grocery supplement for an initial 3,000-5,000 households, which it will strive to grow to 6,000-12,000 households by June,” according to a press release.

Meal deliveries for older adults will be expanded through partnerships with Meals on Wheels and the Salvation Army.

Currently, the city serves 800 meals per month to seniors. The number is expected to increase to 6,400 meals in May and up to 9,000 meals in June.

The city now serves 800 meals per month to seniors. The number is expected to increase to 6,400 meals in May.

The number of grocery boxes purchased from the Maryland Food Bank is expected to triple from 10,000 a month to 30,000 a month, while small cash grants made to urban farms and community gardens are aimed  at increasing the amount of fresh produce this summer.

Overall, the “Covid-19 Emergency Food Strategy” is expected to cost $16 million. It will be implemented “in coming weeks as strategy details and funding are finalized,” according to the mayor’s office.

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