A LETTER FROM OUR CEO: SPARROW'S NEST UPDATES
The Westminster Rescue Mission has been providing free food in Carroll County almost since its inception, 55 years ago. Today, there is a continued and growing need for food assistance in our community. Through the Mission Food Program, we are working to address these needs in the greatest way possible: we are currently the largest redistributor of food in Carroll County, supplying provisions to dozens of local pantries and soup kitchens. We also currently operate a weekly food pantry (The Sparrow’s Nest) at our main campus, and five monthly mobile pantry distributions at off-campus locations throughout the county.
Even with our decades of experience, the growth of the Mission Food Program during the past two years has exceeded all expectations. In 2021, we agreed to become a redistribution partner of the Maryland Food Bank (MFB)--1 of only 5 organizations serving as MFB Re-Distribution Organizations (RDOs), or food hubs, in the state. And in 2022, the Westminster Rescue Mission brought federal TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program) food back to Carroll County to provide for qualifying households.
Despite this growth, our efforts have not kept up with the realities of food insecurity in Carroll County. Feeding America’s research notes that the annual food budget shortfall in Carroll County has grown from $5,235,000 to over $10,575,000 since 2017. Different approaches to addressing hunger are urgently needed. The Mission is committed to leading the changes necessary to strengthen the fight to address root causes of food insecurity, shifting the primary focus from emergency response to long-term transformation of lives. The mounting problem requires a joint effort by many to collectively make an impact and reduce food insecurity in our community. We can’t – and don’t – do this work alone.
We know that no one person or organization can or should be all things to all people--that role is the Lord’s. Our job is to identify two things: where the greatest need is, and how our gifts and resources can best be used to meet that need.
To better address the needs in our community, we are stepping more fully into our role as a food hub. This carries additional operational obligations and reporting requirements, as well as increased logistical challenges. As Carroll County’s food hub, we are responsible for sourcing food, sharing responsibility for the rescue of food from local retail recovery partners with MFB, redistributing it to partnering organizations throughout the county, and leading collaboration at the local level to coordinate services, share resources, and provide mutual support to meet the needs of our hungry neighbors. By increasing the quality and amount of food we distribute throughout the county, we can reach more households than those currently served by our on-site pantry at The Sparrow’s Nest.
In scaling up our services to fill the gaps in our community’s food support system, we will be moderating our operations in areas where others are already providing those services. Duplication of services results in greater gaps of service in areas where there is significant need. Knowing that Westminster is blessed by a wealth of local food pantries, we will continue to reduce our on-campus food pantry operations while ensuring that the pantry patrons who have come to rely on The Sparrow’s Nest are thoughtfully transferred to the care and provision of other local food pantries who already provide direct services.
Throughout the months of July and August, our team has been connecting with all of our pantry patrons to:
- advise them of upcoming changes to our pantry operations;
- share printed and online versions of our Carroll County Free Food Resource Guide with the days, times, and locations where they can continue to receive free food assistance from other local partners (http://bit.ly/ccfreefood);
- survey them to determine what is most important to them as they transition to different pantries.
Our goal has been and continues to be, that we ensure that our pantry patrons have securely established relationships with other local pantries before we reduce our on-site pantry operations.
In September, The Sparrow’s Nest will continue to be open on Fridays from 10 to 11 a.m.
As we have communicated previously, in the months ahead, beginning on October 1st, The Sparrow’s Nest will be further reducing hours and will serve only those households that are qualified for TEFAP (because there is a pressing need to ensure this significant food resource is able to be offered in our community). Based on survey feedback from our patrons, the TEFAP food distributions will be held on the 1st and 3rd Fridays of the month, from 10 – 11a.m. at The Sparrow’s Nest.
The Mission will continue our off-campus monthly food distributions in Finksburg, Hampstead, Eldersburg, and Taneytown, and we will be expanding these mobile pantry operations to include more locations this fall in order to serve in areas where there is the greatest need and/or gaps in service.
If you have any questions or concerns about these upcoming changes, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me (email: email@example.com; phone: (410) 848-2222 (Mon-Fri, 9 AM-4 PM).
Our team looks forward to playing a more strategic role in fighting hunger in our community, building a comprehensive network of support for individuals in need of food.
Stephanie M. Halley