BALTIMORE — United Way of Central Maryland (UWCM) distributed 3,600 Thanksgiving meal boxes to low-income families across central Maryland through its 21st annual Harvest of Plenty program, 20 percent more meals than last year. A portion of the meals were provided in partnership with UWCM’s ambassador from the Baltimore Ravens, cornerback Lardarius Webb. Molly Shattuck, UWCM’s healthy food ambassador, is also sponsoring a portion of the meals.
The holiday meal boxes were distributed to pre-registered families starting November 22 at various locations across the region. Boxes comprise traditional Thanksgiving meal items such as a 14-pound turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, collard greens, sweet potatoes, applesauce, corn, cranberry sauce and more, and include sufficient servings to feed a family of six.
Across central Maryland, there are more than 325,000 people who are food insecure, meaning that they lack consistent access to healthy, affordable food. Recent reductions to SNAP benefits (also known as food stamps) have exacerbated the issue of food insecurity locally and across the country. Harvest of Plenty is one component of UWCM’s Access to Healthy Food Initiative, which is working to improve access to healthy food for families facing poverty.
“In recent years, United Way’s 2-1-1 call center has received increasingly more calls from local people in need of food assistance, particularly during the holiday season. Every family deserves to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner together, and we are incredibly grateful to our donors who make it possible for us to again provide these meals,” said Mark Furst, president and CEO of UWCM.
Eligible families registered to receive a Thanksgiving meal box by calling 2-1-1 Maryland at United Way of Central Maryland starting November 4. With such an urgent need for food assistance, UWCM nearly filled its Harvest of Plenty registration to capacity within the first two weeks, receiving more than 1,100 calls in the first two days the phone line was open for registration. Distribution of the meal boxes begins November 22.
2-1-1 Maryland at United Way of Central Maryland is a 24/7 health and human service hotline that provides information and referrals to individuals in need year-round. Last year, United Way’s 2-1-1 call center answered more than 78,000 calls for help.
Funding to supply the 3,600 holiday meal boxes is made possible by donations to United Way of Central Maryland’s Harvest of Plenty program and partnerships with The Lardarius Webb Foundation and Molly Shattuck. Each donation of approximately $15 purchases a holiday meal box that feeds a family of six people. Donations for the program are still needed and can be made at www.uwcm.org/thankful.
United Way of Central Maryland is working to change the odds for families facing poverty through programs focused on education, financial stability and health. To learn more about Harvest of Plenty or for more information about United Way of Central Maryland, please visit www.uwcm.org.