Recognizing Black History Month and the Racial Disparities in Food Access

A fresh basket of vegetables

From the Director’s Corner

February is Black History Month and a time to celebrate the rich heritage and achievements of African Americans. It’s also a time to reflect on our nation’s painful past and current challenges as we still strive to create a more equitable society. In Montgomery County, we must reckon with our own county’s complex history of race relations, including legal housing discrimination, which continued through the first three-quarters of the 20th Century. This left a legacy of housing and wealth inequities among Black residents that persist in our county today and still negatively impact the lives of the BIPOC residents MUM serves.

Poverty (and food insecurity) are not equally distributed throughout our county. Nearly one-third of Montgomery County residents are food insecure, and Black and Brown households are disproportionately affected. The Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) recently updated their Hunger Heat Map, which helps us visualize the level of food insecurity in our region.

You’ll notice that food insecurity is highest in some of the communities that MUM serves. It’s astounding to see that in some of our clients’ neighborhoods 40-50% or more of the population are food insecure.

While the covid pandemic has officially ended and the economic picture has improved for many, those financial gains didn’t reach most of our clients in these underserved communities. Residents of color in our region are more likely to be rent burdened, spending well over 30% of their income on housing. The lack of quality, affordable housing, the high cost of living in our county, and the fact that wages aren’t high enough to meet basic needs, affects this population at a greater rate. Plus, grocery prices are stubbornly high and pandemic benefits have been gone for nearly a year, straining budgets further. We understand why so many are in financial crisis and are coming to MUM for help. In last month’s newsletter, we reported a record 307 households served at our December 3rd mobile pantry. Sadly, we exceeded that number at our January 7th mobile pantry as we served 326 households.

At MUM, we proudly serve a diverse community. We will continue to engage our neighbors and do all we can to make sure all have access to the nutritious food that they want and need. We will also do all we can to remove barriers to their sustained financial and physical well-being by connecting them with other social service providers and community resources to help them on a pathway to greater long-term self-sufficiency. With additional funding this year, we hope to expand holistic opportunities to truly transform lives and turn the tide on some of the longstanding disparities in our community.

Many gains have been made in our county and our nation. But there’s so much more to be done. MUM joins our government leaders, local organizations, and citizens to do our part to address persistent inequities and injustices in the underserved communities in our region.

We all long for an equitable society where individuals and families can thrive and where meeting basic needs and accessing services and amenities are not determined by race or ethnicity. We are ever so grateful to all of you, our volunteers and donors, who feel the same and support us in our efforts through your time and your financial support. You help us not only address food insecurity, but to ensure a more just and equitable food system and community.

Thanks for your support of MUM! We look forward to a new year of working with you to support our neighbors! We make it easy! Donate here.

Dayna Brown, Executive Director

Collaboration and Advocacy to Support Our Community

At MUM, seizing opportunities to collaborate and to advocate on behalf of our community members has been critical to meeting our neighbors’ urgent needs and for facilitating their long-term success and financial stability.

On February 13, MUM’s Executive Director Dayna Brown attended the Montgomery County Food Council’s Town Hall featuring County Executive Marc Elrich. During this meeting he addressed his commitment to not only address food insecurity, but also to address the underlying causes of food insecurity such as the lack of affordable housing, low wages, poor health, lack of childcare and universal early childhood education, and the need for job training and upskilling of so many of our clients. He shared that the county will center equity in its strategies going forward, acknowledging the disparities within communities and the real struggles faced by many Montgomery County residents. He also shared a commitment to invest more in nonprofits like MUM so that we can continue to serve the many vulnerable residents in our community.

Last month, Dayna also had the opportunity to speak with other food assistance providers at a Capital Area Food Bank Maryland Partners meeting. She discussed how crucial it is for small nonprofits like MUM to optimize community resources to meet the growing demand for services. For instance, MUM receives and makes referrals to other organizations in our building such as the Proyecto Salud health clinic, Gilchrist Immigrant Resource Center, Pathways to Housing, as well as the Montgomery County Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS).  MUM works with these and other social service providers to make sure our residents have access to the programs, benefits, and assistance they need. She highlighted how MUM has expanded partnerships with farmers and other organizations, like Community FarmShare and So What Else, to have more healthy produce available for clients. MUM is part of the Emergency Assistance Coalition coordinated by Interfaith Works, which helps ensure clients have access to emergency financial assistance. DHHS grants allow MUM to get produce boxes from Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB), and other grants also allow us to purchase food from CAFB. 

Resourcefulness and cooperation have been key to addressing the changing nonprofit landscape. MUM also realizes we could not fulfill our mission without you, our committed community members who are willing to volunteer your time and talents at our pantries and in the office, hold food drives which help stretch our food program dollars, and provide financial donations to help meet the need and cover the operational costs of our food and financial assistance programs. We also applaud those of you who are staunch advocates for our residents in need, raising awareness in your faith communities, club meetings and neighborhoods. Thank you for your continued partnership.

Giving to MUM is easy!

Here’s how to make a financial donation. | Here’s how you can help by volunteering.

MUM Office Hours

MUM’s office is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 9am to 4pm. The office food pantry is open on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 12pm and 1pm to 3pm. Appointments are preferred; walk-ins will be accepted. All staff and visitors are still asked to wear masks in the MUM office.

Clients needing food assistance on Tuesdays please visit:
 
Hughes United Methodist Church/Mid-County Consolidation Hub
 10700 Georgia Ave.
 Silver Spring, MD 20902
 301-949-8383. Se habla Español.
 Open every Tuesday from 9:30am to 12:30pm.
 Face masks are MANDATORY. Bring ID and grocery bags.

Appointments to apply for financial assistance for eviction prevention, utility shut-off prevention, and emergency prescription drugs can be made by contacting the MUM office by telephone at 301-929-8675 or by email at office@mumhelp.org.