Help Get Food to Those Who Need It
On a typical day, more than 60,000 Montgomery County residents experience food insecurity. But these aren't typical days. Due to the wide-ranging impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations that provide nutritious meals and groceries to those in need have seen demand for their services increase by 50 to 300 percent--or more. Put another way, some food pantries in Montgomery County are now seeing as many clients every week as they had been accustomed to seeing every month.

It's no surprise then that one of the most critical ways volunteers can help during this pandemic is by supporting the groups feeding those who need it--through volunteer service as well as donations of food and/or money.

Yes, even with a stay-at-home or safer-at-home order in effect, volunteers who are helping with an essential need such as food are able to serve and travel. Just be sure to follow the county's guidance for volunteers, maintain physical distance from others, and bring along any personal protective equipment you might need, such as face coverings, gloves, and/or hand sanitizer. Many organizations are providing these items to volunteers; be sure to check each opportunity's complete description online for details.

Here are a few of the many opportunities to assist with food security related to COVID-19 found on the Volunteer Center website:

KIDS FOOD SACK ASSEMBLERS: Wednesdays and Thursdays, 12 noon-5 pm, Montgomery Village. Help prepare the 5,400 bags of kid-friendly foods that Women Who Care Ministries provides to families each week. Minimum age: 14. Email wwcmvolunteers@yahoo.com with your phone number and dates/times you would like to volunteer.
Additional opportunities with WWCM for distribution drivers and donors.

FOOD PACKAGERS & DISTRIBUTORS: Weekdays, 9:30 am-12:30 pm & 12:30-3:30 pm in Rockville (packaging), and 1-3 pm in Gaithersburg & Rockville (distributing). Create boxes of food for families, students, and seniors served by Nourish Now, load prepared boxes in client's cars, and/or deliver food to nearby households. Bilingual volunteers especially needed for distribution efforts. Minimum age: 18. Email Brian Naves.
Additional opportunities with Nourish Now for donors.

FARMERS MARKET ASSISTANTS: Wednesdays, 11 am-3 pm, Takoma Park. Help shoppers follow safety rules and provide general market support at the Crossroads Farmers Market, which matches shoppers' federal nutrition benefits, essentially enabling them to buy twice as much with these dollars as they could elsewhere. For volunteers ages 16-60. Email Sara Servin.

DISTRIBUTION DRIVERS/SITE ASSISTANTS: Daily, 10 am-5 pm, Rockville. Drive food and other items So What Else provides to those in need to a distribution site and help the site leader with setup, distribution, and cleanup. For volunteers age 16-60 who pass a risk-factor screening. Email Talia Ramey.
Additional opportunities with SWE for donor researchers, produce recovery volunteers, donation warehouse helpers, and donors.

FOOD DRIVE ORGANIZERS: Get some extra cans and boxes of nonperishable food on your next grocery run/order and encourage your neighbors to do the same, then drop off 24/7 (no contact) at Manna Food Center in Gaithersburg, which serves as the county's primary food bank. The most-needed foods include oatmeal, brown rice, canned fruits and vegetables, and beans.
Additional opportunities with Manna for special response task force volunteers and donors.

BILINGUAL FOOD PANTRY RECEPTIONIST: Mondays-Thursdays, 10 am-1 pm & 1-4 pm, Silver Spring. Answer phone calls in English and Spanish for Adventist Community Services of Greater Washington, which is experiencing a surge in demand for its food pantry services and is also now serving as the local distribution site for the DC Diaper Bank. Email ACSGWInfo@acsgw.org.

FOOD AND FINANCE DONORS: Organizations throughout the county are in need of donations of food, supplies, grocery store gift cards, and financial contributions to support their food security efforts. Some even have Amazon wishlists posted so you can shop for needed goods right from your couch.

Find more ways to volunteer for food-related needs by exploring opportunities posted on the Volunteer Center website. And for additional ideas on ways to help get food to those who need it during this pandemic, check with the grassroots neighborhood organizations featured on our volunteer response to COVID-19 page.
How You Can Volunteer From Home
Now that so many of us have had some time to figure out working and learning from home, it's not much of a stretch to move on to volunteering from home. And with the new Virtual Opportunity filter on the Volunteer Center website, it's easy to find meaningful ways to serve remotely.

Among the virtual volunteering opportunities currently posted are:

MCPS Now Allowing Remote Student Service Learning
Speaking of virtual volunteering ... Until schools return to normal status, MCPS is temporarily allowing students to earn Student Service Learning (SSL) hours for virtual/remote service completed at home under the sponsorship of an approved nonprofit organization or MCPS school staff member. Designated remote MCPS SSL opportunities have begun being posted to the Volunteer Center website and carry the graduation cap icon (along with traditional SSL opportunities, which can continue to be performed, when safe to do so, in public places under direct supervision of a nonprofit representative).

Students who complete designated remote SSL opportunities will earn SSL hours based on a specific formula outlined in the opportunity description on the Volunteer Center website.

Students will not be able to earn SSL hours for:
  • Service without sponsorship of an approved nonprofit organization or MCPS school staff member
  • Service that involves direct interaction with recipients of the service through phone calls, emails, or virtual communication of any kind
  • Service supervised solely by a parent/guardian or relative
  • Service supervised solely by an individual younger than 18 years of age
  • Service resulting in money, goods, services, or other compensation
  • Service that involves hosting collection drives or fundraising without direct supervision of a nonprofit representative or MCPS school staff member in a public space
  • Service that involves fostering an animal
Celebrating Senior Corps Volunteers
In honor of Older Americans Month, the Volunteer Center salutes the 232 dedicated volunteers age 55 and up who serve with the Montgomery County Senior Corps RSVP signature programs: RSVP/AARP Tax-Aide and Bone Builders.

Thanks to our Senior Corps volunteers, these two programs are able to provide free tax preparation assistance for low-to-moderate income county residents and exercise classes designed to help seniors improve bone strength and balance. (Both programs have been curtailed to ensure the safety of volunteers and clients during this pandemic.)

To learn more about Montgomery County Senior Corps, email Kathleen Meaney Stobie, Senior Corps RSVP director, or call 240-777-2612.
Taking Care While Being a Good Neighbor
As you reach out to help others, please protect yourself and those you are serving by taking the following precautions developed by Montgomery County’s Office of Emergency Management and Department of Health and Human Services:

  • Stay home unless you must be out for essential reasons.
  • Stay home from work, school, and all activities when you are sick with COVID-19 symptoms, which may include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.
  • Keep away from others who are sick.
  • Limit close physical contact with others as much as possible, keeping at least 6 feet away and using a face covering when that physical distance can't be maintained.
  • Call, email, or text your neighbors who may need help.
  • If they are in need of immediate emergency care, call 911.
  • Limit your help to non-contact activities. For example:
  • Leave groceries on the doorstep. (Do not enter their house.)
  • Make sure to thoroughly wash your hands before touching anything you deliver to them.
  • To promote social interactions and combat loneliness, speak with neighbors on the phone or by video chat (versus going into their homes) on a regular basis.
  • Conduct research on their needs and provide them with resources or connect them directly with help such as feeding, transportation to medical appointments, animal services, etc.
  • Alert authorities if you think that a neighbor is in danger.
  • Do not act on your own.
  • Create an online network for your community.
  • Remember to protect yourself first! Do not put yourself or others at risk.
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The Montgomery County Volunteer Center is part of the Office of Community Partnerships, which works to strengthen the relationship between the Montgomery County government and the residents it serves, with special emphasis on underserved and emerging communities. Subscribe to the monthly OCP newsletter to keep up with these activities.

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