James Rada, Jr.

The interior of the Thurmont Food Bank.

Photo by James Rada, Jr.

As inflation continues to drive up prices, especially for food, it is also driving families to their local food banks for help.

“It just seems like everything is going up except their paychecks,” said Josephine Willard with the Help Hotline at the Church of the Transfiguration in Blue Ridge Summit. She said their food bank is seeing more than 40 families a month.

Likewise, the Emmitsburg Food Bank is seeing more families seeking help. Before the pandemic, they would see around 50 families a month. Now, they see 75.

“They are telling me the amount of food stamps they receive is lower, and suddenly the economy is very tight,” said Phyllis Kelly with the Emmitsburg Food Bank. This makes it the highest level it has ever been.

Pastor Sally Joyner Giffin told the Thurmont Commissioners recently that the Thurmont Food Bank had helped 507 families in November 2023. She said this was a dramatic increase for the food bank.

Inflation is also affecting how much the food banks have to offer. Just as it drives food prices up for families, it also does so for food banks. The Help Hotline is entirely funded through donations from individuals, businesses, and churches.

“They are very generous,” Willard said. “It seems like they know the need before we do and help.”

Thurmont and Emmitsburg food banks get this help, but they also are able to purchase some things through the Maryland Food Bank.

The rising cost of food has meant that a lot of the new families the food banks are seeing are elderly couples who are living on fixed incomes. “They lived all their lives working and saving, only to need to go to the food bank,” Willard said.

However, younger people working at low-income jobs are feeling the same pinch.

Joyner Giffin told the commissioners that right now, Thurmont has people living in tents and in their cars. They are having to make a choice between buying food and making a rent payment, and the choice is food. By making food less of a drain on their resources, it allows people to use their money in other areas where it is needed.

Joyner Giffin told the commissioners that the food bank’s goal for those it helps is “to keep them in their homes, off the streets, healthy, and living as comfortably as possible.”

The food banks try to offer more than food. For instance, families also need things like toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, and toothpaste.

“Things like shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste, you can’t buy with food stamps, so we offer it,” Kelly said.

The Thurmont Ministerium, which supports the food bank, also has an emergency housing program to get at-risk families off the street and into safe housing temporarily. Like food, the cost of hotel rooms has also limited the number of families that the ministerium can help.

If you can afford to help, please contact your local food bank to see what they need and how to make donations.

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