By Ana Hurler
On the third Saturday of each month, the College Park Community Food Bank serves donated food to anyone in neighboring areas who needs it. The next distribution event will be April 15 at the College Park Church of the Nazarene.
“The food is donated from individuals from our church, the community and other churches,” said Mark Garrett, the senior pastor at College Park Church of the Nazarene. “We have to purchase the rest from Capital Area Food Bank and from other grocery stores.”
Items donated from the Capital Area Food Bank can be purchased for 19 cents a pound, said Jeremy Lunsford, who serves as president of the College Park Community Food Bank.
According to Lunsford, Panera Bread is also a regular donor, providing the food bank with fresh bread and pastries.
Other commonly donated foods include canned goods, pasta and pasta sauce, cereal, peanut butter and Just-Add-Water meals.
“We generally have trouble getting peanut butter, tuna, and canned fruit,” Lunsford said. “Those supplies tend to be limited and expensive.”
Lunsford said that the number of people who are served at these distributions varies, but that there have been a few times where nearly 200 families have shown up. One of these times was during a blizzard several years ago.
“They were quickly overwhelmed with work, so several guests stayed to either shovel snow, or pack food for others,” Lunsford said. “It’s been at least five years since, and I believe that we only recently beat that record for the number of people who received food.”
According to Lunsford, some University of Maryland students and groups — such as CIVICUS, a civil society program on campus — have volunteered their time working at the food bank.
UMD’s Office of Community Engagement is working to connect the university with the City of College Park through service initiatives such as Good Neighbor Day, a community-wide collaborative service event that took place April 1. The College Park Community Food Bank was just one of the many local organizations to contribute to the event.
After organizing the first few Good Neighbor Days several years ago as a beautification project, Gloria Aparicio Blackwell, director of the Office of Community Engagement, said she realized that reshaping the initiative’s goals would better serve the entire community.
“We realized there was a missing link of the basic need, which is food,” Blackwell said.
Blackwell learned that the College Park Church received many food donations at the end of the year, but that by March and April, the number of donations would decline.
Communications and Media Coordinator for the Office of Community Development, Ceylon Mitchell, said he connected with the food bank to create more visibility of the event. He said that in comparison to previous years, this year many more people knew about this “huge effort to mobilize the entire community.”
Blackwell acknowledged the unique role the university plays in the community, and said it’s important that we support the city surrounding us.
“We’re not just an island,” Blackwell said. “We’re part of a larger effort. If they’re not doing well, we’re not doing well.”
By supporting College Park during its good moments and its bad, Blackwell said that students can create a college town just by incorporating everyone in the area.
“We are a part of this complete system that is supporting all of us,” she added.
The Community Engagement Coordinator for the Office of Community Development, Sarah D’Alexander, said that the organization collected over 3,500 pounds of goods for the food bank, just by placing boxes around College Park’s campus and surrounding community.
According to Lunsford, students who are interested in getting involved can volunteer at a distribution event, put together their own food drive, or simply donate.
The distribution will take place at the College Park Church of the Nazarene from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. April 15.