Inspiring Views from the Bright SideSM
An Interview with Lynne Kahn
Founder and Executive Director
Baltimore Hunger Project | Cockeysville, MD
Connect with Lynne on LinkedIn
1. What are the goods/services offered by your primary business?
Baltimore Hunger Project is dedicated to eliminating the growing problem of weekend childhood hunger by feeding bodies and minds. We are bridging the gap between Friday and Monday by consistently providing weekend food packages to children identified as food insecure, in a compassionate and dignified manner. We raise awareness about the effects of hunger by establishing partnerships with community members, other organizations, and decision-makers.
2. What did you launch in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
During COVID-19 times, Baltimore Hunger Project has expanded our mission beyond just focusing on food for the weekend. BHP is now focused on childhood hunger overall. BHP is providing food packages twice a week to support low-income and vulnerable families during this crisis. During normal times, BHP was serving 648 students, primarily pre-school and elementary school-aged. Today, BHP is supporting 2,300 students aged 18 and under. Additionally, BHP is leveraging relationships in the community (H&S bakery, Chick-fil-a, University of Maryland St. Joseph’s Medical Center-Firehouse subs and Hungry Harvest produce, Wegman’s, The YMCA-snack food items) by sourcing additional food for these families in need. These items are now included in our weekly distributions. Our expanded mission is vital to the communities we support.
3. What steps did you take to develop and promote your new initiative?
COVID-19 Impact and BHP response:
Baltimore Hunger Project (BHP) was well-positioned to respond to the increased demand for our services during the COVID-19 crisis. BHP was able to quickly mobilize our volunteer network to distribute an increased number of food packages to the designated school food distribution sites while working within the CDC guidelines. BHP's volunteer staff is working around the clock to keep up with the increased demand, sourcing food, organizing volunteers, and physically packing food. Previously, BHP held one weekly packing session. During this time, we have increased packing to three-four days a week and distribution to two days. We have instituted set teams for each day of the week to keep the number of volunteers within the CDC guidelines. The increased need in the community has also financially impacted BHP, as we are spending almost three times more on food each week. As the crisis continues, we are receiving increased requests for help. BHP is doing all we can to support all those that reach out in need. However, this level of spending is not sustainable with just the support and generosity of our individual donor base.
Below is a chart documenting BHP’s response to meet the increased demand of those in need:
|Fall 2019 (10/1-12/31/19)||Winter 2020-pre-COVID (1/1-3/13/20)||COVID crisis(3/16-5/15/20)|
|12 + 2 holidays||11 + 2 holidays||9|
* First two weeks of COVID crisis BHP distributed 1,260 food packages on Fridays. BHP moved to a two-day distribution the week of March 30th.
4. What or who inspired you to undertake this effort?
In the Fall of 2009, along with two friends, I started Lynne's Garage. It was a way to bring families together to support two local women and children homeless shelters. For one Sunday a month, for nine years, we made 250+ bagged lunches to distribute. I had the pleasure of delivering the lunches and the children would come running outside and ask me if I was the lunch lady. For that week, I was. It was before Baltimore City and County began providing free breakfast and lunch to its food-insecure students. The moms would tell me month after month how impactful it was for their children to receive a bagged lunch to take to school. It made them feel just like their peers - living in a shelter was difficult, and having their own lunch gave them a sense of independence. As the years passed, I began to think, what happens to children over the weekends. Everyone is so concerned with Monday - Friday, that no one is focusing on Saturday and Sundays. And so, that's where BHP came from. (There's more to the story, but you get the idea).
5. What results have you seen so far from this initiative?
I have seen incredible support from the community. I have also seen how both our volunteers and children are impacted from the exchange - before, the children were anonymous to us as an organization. The guidance counselors and principals identified the kids who were most in need. Now, we are interacting directly with the children, and its amazing!
6. How do you define success for your project?
Success is difficult to define. Hunger still exists. There are thousands of children in need.
By doing our best every day and impacting the most vulnerable in our community with compassion, dignity and care.
7. What are the biggest challenges for you to meet your goal?
Baltimore Hunger Project's most pressing need is food. Over the past few weeks, we have experienced first-hand the food supply chain interruption. During Non-COVID-19 times, BHP purchased the majority of our food from the Maryland Food Bank (MFB). MFB recently instituted limits on quantities that can be purchased, forcing BHP to now purchase food at retail cost through warehouse stores, such as Sam’s Club and BJ’s. Many other nonprofits are in the same situation, so we are competing for the same food resources at retail cost. This will significantly increase expenses, as we attempt to provide our children with the same quality items. BHP anticipates that this crisis will continue for at least 5 more weeks until the end of the school year.
Baltimore Hunger Project will continue to distribute 2,300 food packages (food packs contain 3-4 meals & snacks for elementary school-aged children) per week to approximately 2,000 Baltimore County students and 300 Baltimore City students. Distribution is every Wednesday and Friday. BHP will be supporting the following Baltimore County designated school food sites during this emergency:
- Chadwick Elementary School
- Church Lane Elementary
- Deep Creek Middle
- Featherbed Elementary
- Glyndon Elementary
- Hawthorne Elementary
- Milbrook Elementary
- Padonia International Elementary
- Riverview Elementary
- Scotts Branch Elementary
BHP will also continue to support several of our existing City schools: Liberty Judy Center, Holy Angels Catholic School, and 3 Baltimore city Head-start programs through Dream Girls Foundation. Additionally, BHP is supporting the following organizations during this crisis: Student Support Network, Haven City Church, Ruth M Kirk Recreation Center, Donald Bentley Food Pantry, and the Saalam Center.The COVID-19 crisis is having a significant financial impact on BHP. BHP was spending approximately $4,000 per week on food to support 650 students. We have increased our weekly expense by $7,250 by providing an additional 1,650 food packages each week. BHP anticipates this crisis to last for a minimum of 12 weeks. Therefore, we anticipate spending a minimum of an additional $87,000 during this crisis time period beyond our normal budgeted food expenses.
8. How long do you anticipate continuing this effort?
While the future remains uncertain, BHP remains committed to feeding bodies and minds of food insecure children during these unsettling and unprecedented times. BHP will continue to be a vital community partner in the fight against childhood hunger through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.
9. What have you learned by undertaking this project?
Personally, I have learned a lot about myself.
I have also learned much about the strength of others, their generosity, their gratitude, and their commitment to making sure childhood hunger is eliminated.
I have also learned about the resilience of families in need, their pride, and their willingness to offer something back to BHP in these moments.
10. How can others learn more about your COVID-19 response efforts?
By following us on social media, joining our newsletter, coming to see our work, speaking with me...
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