Local food banks help the needy during the holiday season

By Tyler McGee
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer

It was 1981 when Baltimore resident Bea Gaddy realized she would have to reach out for help if she was going to have enough food to feed her family on Thanksgiving.

The then 48-year-old mother of five began going to local churches collecting food in a shopping cart and soon had enough not only for her family but for other needy people in her neighborhood.

“It started with her wanting to have a Thanksgiving dinner for her family,” said Cynthia Brooks, the late Gaddy’s daughter and the executive director of the Bea Gaddy Family Center that has served meals to thousands of families since its founding in 1981. “She said she prayed to God if he allowed her to have a Thanksgiving meal she would share it with as many people as she could.”

Gaddy won $250 in the Maryland state lottery in 1981 and used the money to serve 49 of her neighbors a Thanksgiving meal.  Following this the Bea Gaddy Family Center was born.

This is the 36th year the center has served meals to families in the Baltimore area. Brooks said it “gives me a sense of pride to continue my mother’s legacy.”

Joanna Warner, the director of communications at the Maryland Food Bank in Baltimore, said many Maryland residents go hungry each day.

“Despite the fact that Maryland is one of the wealthiest states in the nation, about one in eight individuals are food insecure,” Warner said. “That’s more than 760,000 Marylanders who don’t necessarily know where the next meal is coming from.”

Food insecurity, as defined by the Maryland Food Bank, is the inability to consistently access nutritious food.

The food bank assists with more than 1,250 pantries, shelters, senior centers, and schools throughout Maryland with the distribution of food except for areas in Montgomery and Prince George’s county.

The food bank is currently working with the Towson University football team in a food drive that took place Nov. 12. The event encouraged students, faculty and local community members to donate food and clothes.

The Maryland Food Bank and the Bea Gaddy Family Center aren’t alone in their fight to end hunger in Maryland. The First Baptist Church in Baltimore has  its hand in giving help to the community as well.

“It’s a connection, knowing that we care and that we’re aware of their needs,” said Oscar Smith, administrator and treasurer at First Baptist Church in Baltimore.

First Baptist Church regularly has a soup kitchen but during the holiday season it gives out baskets filled with food, toys and clothes.

Smith said people are “tremendously grateful” for the help the church provides. He said the church serves at least 30 to 50 families every year.

“It’s one of those things where God has answered their prayers in terms of having something for their kids and family at Thanksgiving,” Smith said. “If they didn’t have it [food] then the kids wouldn’t have had anything, and that’s always touching.”

While each of these organizations do their part to help those in need, they face numerous challenges.

“The biggest thing is not being able to help more,” Smith said. “There are countless numbers of families throughout the area that we serve here in the community that are in need. If you take care of 50 there is always another family that’s in as much need or more need.”

Not only is it difficult being unable to help every member in the community, but not having enough to give is also a problem.

“Coming up short on some of the things we need for the meal,” Brooks said. “A Thanksgiving meal is turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, string beans, corn, and gravy, and we always seem to come up short on something.”

Brooks and others urged the public to help them stop hunger in Maryland.

“There are no color barriers, no income barriers, no race or religion it [hunger] touches everybody,” Brooks said.

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