As the pandemic fans from the heat of summer into the fall, the level of needs across communities in Maryland, Virginia and DC continue to grow. Hundreds of thousands in the region remain unemployed, pushing a historic number of people to safety-net programs in order to cover essential needs. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, hunger was already an issue in Prince George’s County with over 32% of county residents living in what’s called a “food desert.” These are places where sufficient food options, like grocery stores and restaurants, are hard to come by.
As the pandemic disrupted the distribution chain of food pantries and other basic-needs providers, the region needed to innovate a workaround. Small businesses including restaurants and other hospitality workers were the first casualties in a long stream of layoffs. Maryland’s largest percentage of employment are occupations around the service industry, which means it’s an industry that has taken one of the hardest economic tolls from the shutdown. Yet, as food shortages became immediately apparent, United Way of the National Capital Area was proud to partner with Prince George’s County on its Stand Up and Deliver Program.
The Stand Up and Deliver program has brought small businesses and nonprofits together with Prince George’s County to help reduce the gaps and disparities in food distribution and basic needs. To this date, the program has distributed over 13,400 meals to Prince George’s County residents. At the time of recording, the unemployment rate for PG County lofts at 9.9%, 1.1% higher than Maryland’s average of 8.8%. United Way NCA partnered with Prince George’s County with nonprofits like Community Support Systems to aid in distribution, setting up sites, packaging meals and supplying food banks with meals and groceries. Without the combined effort of businesses, nonprofits and the county, the level of need couldn’t be met.
“Now through the Stand Up and Deliver Program, we’re currently producing over 4,000 boxes of groceries a week,” shares Phil Sardis, owner of Sardis Catering.
Sardis Catering is a local business in Prince George’s County currently participating in the Stand Up and Deliver Program. At the beginning of the shutdown, Sardis was hit hard by the economic slowdown, forcing the business to cut down on hours, employees and customers. However, through Stand Up and Deliver, Sardis has been able to hire all of his employees back.
“It’s not like people are waiting for a hundred dollars, they’re lining up for food,” shares Sardis. “If we know [about the level of need] people would give back to their communities, provide a little hope.”
The only way forward for the region is by working together to bring innovative solutions to touch challenges. When resources are combined across government, nonprofit and business in support of the community, issues like hunger become surmountable. To help feed families and individuals and families in Prince George’s County, support the Stand Up and Deliver program today with a donation!