Executive Director of Lifestyles of Maryland, Inc.
By Sara Serfaty
July 12, 2020
On July 8, Lifestyles of Maryland received over 4,000 gallons, of milk from Balford Farms. The USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program, a federally-funded COVID-19 relief initiative that buys food from farms across the country for them to donate to food banks launched in April, funded this delivery that The Farmlink Project helped facilitate.
“Some people take it for granted that you have a roof over your head and food to put on the table, but there are people every day wondering where the food is coming from and where they will lay their head that night,” Sandy Washington, executive director of Lifestyles of Maryland, Inc., told me over the phone on Tuesday. Lifestyles, a multifaceted nonprofit organization supporting residents of Southern Maryland, provides housing, food, and other resources to individuals and families in crisis.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lifestyles has seen a sharp increase in demand for its services. Before COVID-19, Lifestyles served between 25 and 50 meals per day. Now, they serve over 200 meals per day and have launched new food distribution initiatives to meet heightened demand. The most troubling trend Sandy has seen is the rise in community members becoming food insecure. “Folks that worked every day and took time to donate food are now coming to take food from the pantry,” she said, referring to the recent rise in unemployment rates. COVID-19 has also caused many similar organizations serving Southern Maryland to cease operation and has limited transportation options within the county, pushing Lifestyles to expand its services dramatically.
To meet increased demand, Lifestyles has established “food cabanas” throughout the three counties it serves. The cabanas provide fresh groceries one day per week and nonperishable meals four days per week. As of mid-June, they have provided over 25,000 meals. Lifestyles has also implemented a strategy of “street outreach,” delivering supplies directly to communities in need and with limited access to transportation, a challenge further exacerbated by coronavirus.
Despite these daunting numbers, Sandy remains hopeful about Lifestyles’ ability to serve all who request its services. Sandy describes Lifestyles as a “faith-based” organization in that they are guided by a “faith that we can continue to feed people” despite increased demand and limited resources, and “Farmlink has proven that. Who would’ve thought you could give away over 30,000 lbs of milk?” she said of Wednesday’s shipment.
In recent years, Lifestyles has served over 13,000 individuals annually from a variety of backgrounds, including members of the Piscataway-Conoy Native American tribe. Lifestyles partners with various community-based organizations to ensure timely distribution to constituents, many of whom do not have indoor plumbing or running water in their homes, despite their proximity to Washington, D.C.. Last month’s delivery of fresh milk was “like Christmas” to the individuals and families Lifestyles serves. Local restaurants stored last month’s shipment of milk in their refrigerated trucks, ensuring the products did not spoil on their way to recipients.
By consolidating resources from throughout its community and their region, Lifestyles has remained a beacon of hope for the communities it serves throughout Southern Maryland, despite increased demand and limited financial resources.