F.O.O.D. is an acronym for Frederick Organizations Optimizing Distribution of food. “Our existing Food Distribution Center meets the needs of our immediate community at our campus on West South Street,” explains Arnold Farlow, the Mission’s executive director. “We were not set up to be mobile distributors on a large scale. But with the creation of our FOOD ministry, we can now distribute food to our partners throughout Frederick County.” Read on to learn how this critical new program was created.
For over 25 years, providing food to those in need has been one of the Mission’s vital ministries. Whether serving nearly 110,000 meals through our George L. Shields Bread of Life Kitchen, providing groceries for over 86,000 guests through our Food Distribution Center, or supplying local churches and organizations with food to distribute to their unique populations, the Mission is committed to helping our neighbors in need who are hungry or experiencing food insecurity.
When COVID emerged last winter and unemployment spiked, the efficient distribution of food became more important than ever. “Food is one of the most demonstrable ways we can show love to our neighbors,” says Arnold, “and thankfully, there is a strong infrastructure within Frederick to provide for people’s needs.” It wasn’t surprising that “pop-up” food distribution points began to appear throughout the county.
As the largest distributor for the Maryland Food Bank, the Mission began providing food for “downstream partners” from Urbana to Thurmont and from Emmitsburg to Brunswick. “The Maryland Food Bank really stepped up to meet the growing need,” says Arnold. With the increased food supplied by the Maryland Food Bank, the Mission was equipped to help people in deep need by working with churches and organizations – or “downstream partners” – who were already established within a community.
For example, I Believe in Me is a youth development and mentorship program that began to distribute groceries early in the pandemic. The Mission provided over $300,000 worth of food to them in 2020 so that they could meet the needs of their local community. “That represents over 100 truckloads of food from March through December,” says Arnold.
In an effort to develop a more coordinated strategy, establish more precisely where the food insecurity exists, and make sure we match need with food resources, the Mission joined a conversation with local partners who were eager to address the problem. Through the generous support of the Ausherman Family Foundation, BB&T now Truist, Community Foundation of Frederick County, Delaplaine Foundation, G. Frank Thomas Foundation, Helen J. Serini Foundation, Maryland Food Bank, and United Way of Frederick County, the Mission received funding to help with transportation, food, staffing, and operational resources.
These private donors also partnered with County Executive Jan Gardner and the Frederick County Government to create a GIS Food Distribution Map. This interactive map helps people find a food distribution point within their own community. You can check out the map today via our website at therescuemission.org/programs/.
Valerie Moore, a familiar face around campus and a Mission employee for over nine years, was chosen to manage the F.O.O.D. program. “As we grow our food presence in Frederick County, we are looking to help make connections with others to cultivate partnerships and meet food insecurity needs,” says Valerie. “I love what I’m doing in the F.O.O.D. ministry – being able to help in some small way toward that end.”
The psalmist writes, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God…who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry” (Psalm 146:6-7 ESV). As the Mission follows Jesus’s example of loving our neighbor by giving food to the hungry (see Mt. 14:13-21; Mk. 6:30-34; Lk. 9:10-17; John 6:1-15), we also strive to invite them into the abundant life Jesus purchased for them. We’re thankful for this new F.O.O.D. ministry and how it helps us love even more of our neighbors in need, changing lives now and for eternity.