MUM Addresses Growing Community Needs

Abbe Levin, Karen Holt, Will Jawando, Dayna Brown

MUM Board Member Abbe Levin, MUM Grants Manager Karen Holt, and MUM Executive Director, Dayna Brown with Montgomery County Council Member Will Jawando at the Interfaith Works Faith and Philanthropy Forum in late February.

As we welcome the signs of spring and new growth, I am excited to share how MUM is growing to meet the growing needs in our community. We recently were awarded our first grant by the Healthcare Initiative Foundation to start a “Food as Medicine” program in partnership with Proyecto Salud, Community FarmShare and Holy Cross Health. This funding will also enable us to better coordinate with other mid-county service providers and to explore the formation of a “Wellness Hub” in the Wheaton area. Please read about this new development below.

We continue to see increased demand for food assistance, and I hope you will read more about our clients in the article written by our Client Care Assistant, Glorianne Small, below. We are grateful for produce boxes and grants to purchase food from the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB), all of which is funded by the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Through our partnership with So What Else, we are also able to provide additional produce and other food that has been recovered from local grocery stores and other suppliers to our clients. We are looking forward to getting donations of fresh produce in the coming months from the Garrett Park Farmers Market, Rocking Horse Community Farm, Manna’s Farm to Food Bank program and others. We also appreciate the many individuals and faith communities who donate food, diapers and feminine hygiene products for our clients and look forward to the Stamp Out Hunger event in May.

MUM also continues to see increased demand for financial assistance for overdue rent and utilities, as many of our neighbors struggle to make ends meet. We are working closely with DHHS and other members of the Emergency Assistance Coalition to pool our limited resources to stop evictions and keep our neighbors’ lights, water, and gas on. Our team at MUM also receives and makes a lot of referrals and connects clients to additional resources to help them not only address their immediate crises, but also their long-term challenges.

Thanks for your support of MUM! While we are growing, we continue to rely on volunteers and committed donors to support our neighbors in need. We hope you can help us keep growing to meet the many needs of our neighbors by donating here.

Happy Spring!
Dayna Brown, Executive Director

Happy Women’s History Month

Since 1995, Presidents have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.” These proclamations celebrate the often-overlooked contributions women have made to the United States and recognize the achievements, resilience, and impact of women over the course of American history in a wide variety of fields.

At MUM, we join this celebration as we recognize our all-woman staff! THANK YOU to Dayna Brown, Jackie Ventura, Karen Holt, Glorianne Small and several women who regularly volunteer in our office to help clients access our food pantry each week, restock the shelves, and do data entry. Over half of MUM’s Board of Directors are also women who give so much time and effort to MUM and our clients. We have a strong, diverse, and dedicated team that works hard to help our neighbors in need. Happy Women’s History Month and Thank you!

Facing Hunger: A Look at our Clients and Food Insecurity
By Glorianne Small, MUM’s Client Care Assistant

There are many food pantries, a few warehouses of food and some soup kitchens in our metropolitan area. Montgomery County faces an all-consuming need to serve our most vulnerable through the food pantry and emergency financial services.

At MUM, we see the faces and hear the challenging stories of our clients: “I only need a little assistance. If I can only get through this month. Can you help me?” While we are limited in our scope, we provide a choice food pantry, giving people a little dignity while they are experiencing challenges. Those facing utility disconnects and evictions are speaking the same language: “Just a little to help me through this crisis.”

Most of our clients work, but they are still financially challenged. Some clients work by the month, others by the week or as day laborers. Some have experienced decreased hours and are trying to find jobs to make up for the lost income. 

A recent survey of clients at MUM’s Mobile Food Pantry found that many visit 2 or 3 other food pantries in the area to make ends meet. Some family members have to skip meals so their children or another family member may eat. MUM’s clients appreciate that they are treated fairly and with respect–and that they are given a choice of food, which also reduces waste. 

Since we began our fiscal year on July 1, 2023, we have served 5,525 individuals. By no means are we the only food pantry available, as Montgomery County offers a host of food pantries to support those suffering from food insecurity. Without this network of support, many would go without a meal on a daily basis.

MUM Receives Grant from HIF for Food as Medicine Program

The Healthcare Initiative Foundation recently awarded MUM a grant to start a “Food as Medicine” Program. Proyecto Salud Clinic, a health provider for low income residents in Montgomery County that is down the hall from MUM’s office and food pantry in Wheaton, will identify and refer potential participants who have been recently diagnosed with diabetes. MUM will follow-up and enroll 20 participants for the program. Running May – October, this 24-week program will begin with nutrition and wellness education classes taught by a Holy Cross Health community outreach professional.

Community FarmShare will provide weekly “prescription” produce bags for participants to pick up at MUM each week. Participants in the program will also be able to access healthy shelf-stable items such as whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and whole grain cereals in addition to their produce bag. MUM will also facilitate monthly sessions with participants to share their experiences with cooking and eating the produce and other healthy foods, including recipes and adaptations. We will also use a “positive deviance” approach to identify those who have made the most progress to share what they have learned with other participants.

At the end of the program, it is expected that participants will see a reduction in their blood sugar levels when measured as compared with their baseline measurements taken by Proyecto Salud. They will also have learned how to live a healthier lifestyle to manage and potentially reverse their diabetes. Once the project is over, MUM will continue to offer nutritious food and support participants’ healthy lifestyle.

As part of this project, MUM will also convene and coordinate with other mid-county service providers to address food insecurity and improve access to resources for program participants and other at-risk mid-county residents. Many providers are in the same Westfield Wheaton South building, including Gilchrist Immigrant Resource Center, a Montgomery County DHHS community navigator, Adult Behavioral Health, and Pathways to Housing. One goal of these convenings would be to explore the foundation of a Mid-County Wellness Hub to facilitate more seamless referrals among providers in the building and access to more wellness resources in the Wheaton area.

Harvest Share Continues to Support MUM and other Local Food Pantries in 2024

MUM greatly appreciates the fresh produce that members at Rocking Horse Community Farm have generously provided through Harvest Share, which asks MoCo residential and community food gardeners to grow a little more in their gardens to donate to local food pantries. Through HarvestShare, gardeners with extra produce can drop food off at a number of food pantries and donation sites (including MUM) listed on their website. We look forward to being able to provide fresh produce to our neighbors in need during the 2024 growing season thanks to these donations!

Food Assistance Provider Town Hall

On February 24th, the Montgomery County Food Council partnered with the County Executive’s office and the Office of Food Systems Resilience to host a Food Assistance Provider Town Hall with County Executive Marc Elrich. More than 50 community partners, including MUM Executive Director Dayna Brown, participated in this discussion of how county government and community partners can work together to address food insecurity in Montgomery County. The CE shared his commitment to investing in resources to increase the capacity of food assistance providers, as well as to directly addressing the root causes of food insecurity, such as by expanding affordable housing, increasing mental and behavioral health resources, and improving job training and upskilling opportunities. See the County Executive’s weekly message for more information.

Interfaith Works Community Conversation March 28

To learn more about food insecurity and efforts underway to address this issue in Montgomery County, please attend the March 28 Community Conversation organized by our partners at Interfaith Works. This event will be held at 7 pm at Montgomery Community Media, Studio A, 7548 Standish Place, Rockville, MD 20855. See featured speakers and additional information here. Note that registration is required.