The story of the Anne Arundel County Food Bank is full of interesting events that when brought together have produced a thriving and prosperous organization. It all began in the 1980s then the Anne Arundel Council of Community Services, an umbrella organization representing human service providers in Anne Arundel County determined that a food bank would be a fabulous and necessary service to providers and consumers alike. Among these organizations ere the Department of Social Services, United Way of Maryland, Department of Aging, Hope House, Community Action Committee, Maryland Food Committee, Helping Hand and Legal Aid of Maryland (Diane Goforth, Ebony Alexander, Malissa Zieve, Bill Leahy, Lois Zink and others,…?). The only option at the time was to travel to Baltimore to access food from the Maryland Food Bank. This required not only travel and an inconvenient location but also a membership fee and a shared maintenance fee for the food itself. Most emergency feeding programs and human service agencies did not have the vehicles, personnel or money for gas to accommodate utilizing the Maryland Food Bank.
The responsibility for finding a site for the proposed Anne Arundel Food |Bank was given to Ebony Alexander as the chair of the Emergency services Committee of the Council. It took almost two years of a research and searching before a potential site was found. The original thought was to find space in Annapolis, which made the most sense geographically. It would be easily accessible by major roads for those agencies outside of the Annapolis area as well as the myriad of human service agencies within the boundaries of the city. A site was finally found in Deale, Maryland. A building owned by Cedar Grove Methodist Church was looking for a tenant. The proposed building was not the most optimal geographic location but it was affordable and would more than serve the purpose.
“Helping Hand of Annapolis, Inc.” was the established non-profit group that agreed to sponsor the food storage facility.
In the same time period Cedar Grove Church bought the Deale Citizens Association Community Meeting Hall Building located next to the church in Deale, Maryland. The transfer and deed was signed on August 4, 1980. The church had used the hall for fundraising dinners and other social events. The hall was not used often enough at that time so the church trustees decided to look for a tenant to occupy the building full time. A committee was formed and they interviewed several prospective tenants including a boat storage business, a lumber and hardware storage company, a private child care center and a physical therapy organization, none of these worked out.
The Church committee also contacted Virginia Clagett, chairman of the County Council in 1986. Sylvia Jennings, Virginia Clagett’s executive assistant would be willing to sponsor, as an affiliate, a food storage facility.
It pays to know the workings of the County Government. Sylvia contacted her friend, Karen Michalec, the Human Services Executive to James Lighthizer, County Executive, and asked her if she try to get Anne Arundel Country to grant money for Helping Hand to open a food storage in Deale, Maryland. Karen convinced the County Executive to make the grant and the food storage was opened in October of 1986.
Bruce Michalec, Karen’s brother, agreed to manage the food storage and distribution. Helping Hand paid the bills with the grant money and managed the finances until the board of directors was selected. The organization Incorporated on September 11th, 1989 as “The Arundel County Food Bank, Inc.” and the Internal Revenue Service 501©3 non-profit designation was issued on December 22nd, 1989.
Sylvia Jennings agreed to be the first President. The Food Bank quickly grew, distributing food to several non-profit and public service organizations in the county. Sylvia brought prominent citizens from the county to serve as advisors and volunteers on the Board of Directors. She also improved the original by-laws and applied for and got grant monies and donations from the civic groups. Our first walk-in freezer was paid for with a grant from the Able Foundation. Our first delivery vehicle, our pallet lift, our first computer and our telephone system were all paid for by grant money from the County Private Foundations. (1989=1990)
Bob Hartge was our second President. He helped Bruce find inexpensive lodgings to compensate for his beginning salary. (1991-1992)
Adrian Wiseman was our third President. He helped Food Link by sponsoring them until they got their non-profit designation. (1993-1994)
Art Krysmanski was our fourth President and helped move the Food Bank Storage to Crownsville Medical Center a much larger and less expensive State owned building. (1995-1996)
George Stringer was out fifth President. He helped write and get a large and continuing grant from the Combined Federal Campaign in Washington, D.C. (1997-1998)
Bill Pratesi was our sixth President. The number of pantries drawing food from the Food Bank exceeded one hundred. (1999-2000)
In 1997 we relocated to a 3 floor building on the Corwnsville State Hospital untill the state hospital closed in 2004. In 2004 we moved to our current location on the Crownsville State Hospital, which is a 32,000 sq. ft. warehouse with 3 loading docks, a walk in freezer and a walk in fridge.
In 2009 with the support of SNAEP Grant and Deerbrook Trust a new 650 sq. ft. freezer was built alongside the AA County Food Bank warehouse. This enabled us to eliminate off-site storage, accept more frozen donations and make frozen meat a constant item for our pantries to distribute.
The recession had a huge impact on hunger in Anne Arundel County. This is evident in the 50% increase in households receiving food stamps between 2007 and 2009, the 38% increase in households assisted by pantries and the 133% increase experienced by our onsite feeding programs over the past five years. 56% of food insecure residents in Anne Arundel County are above the national poverty line and therefore unable to receive food stamps. To help provide for the increased need additional trucks were added to our fleet powered by volunteer drivers. In FY 10 we added a pick-up truck with a box on the back, FY 11 purchased a 16' dry box truck.
In FY 14 the AA County Food Bank joined Feeding America and partnered with the MD Food Bank to increase vendor donations.
Over the next two years food donations almost doubled. In FY 16 we added a 16' reefer box truck and a Ford D-250 with a freezer cap to our fleet.
In FY 17 the AA County Food Bank is focusing on providing healthier local grown foods to our member agencies and to those in need.
We have had a successful 30 years and hope continue our work and our mission fighting hunger, assuring all those in need have access to food, furniture, appliances, medical equipment, and other basic necessities for another 30, years.
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The first location of the AA County Food Bank was Cedar Grove's Community Meeting Hall located next to Cedar Grove.
The addition of this 650 sq. ft. freezer allowed us to eliminate off-site freezer costs and increase frozen food donations.