With many Central Maryland families struggling to make ends meet, United Way of Central Maryland's annual Harvest of Plenty program provided 3,000 Thanksgiving meals – including turkey and all the fixings – to help low-income families gather around a warm meal this holiday.
In Baltimore County, 596 families received Thanksgiving meals.
Rising food costs, unemployment and a down economy have contributed to increased requests for Thanksgiving meals. Calls to 2-1-1 Maryland at United Way of Central Maryland – UWCM's 24/7 health and human service information and referral call center – requesting assistance obtaining food have steadily grown during the past several years.
"Our information and referral specialists handle calls every day from individuals who do not know how they will feed themselves or their children," said Saundra Bond, executive director of 2-1-1 Maryland at UWCM. "Thanks to the generosity of others during the holiday season, we can tell 3,000 callers in November that their family can gather around a full, nutritious Thanksgiving dinner," she continued. "That is truly the spirit of the holiday season."
In response to the increased need for food, UWCM has not only grown the number of meals distributed through Harvest of Plenty – it also launched its Access to Healthy Food Initiative last year. This program aims to provide more than 1.5 million pounds of nutritious food to low-income central Marylanders each year through sourcing more healthy food locally, improving distribution of it, and increasing access and affordability.
Harvest of Plenty is a donor-supported program, and UWCM is accepting donations to help it meet the rapidly growing demand for Thanksgiving meals. A $12 contribution helps feed a family of six a Thanksgiving meal. Gifts in support of Harvest of Plenty can be made online at uwcm.org/thanksgiving or by mailing a check (Attn: Harvest of Plenty, P.O. Box 64282, Baltimore, MD 21264-4282).