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Maryland Food Bank Pilots Programs Targeting Job Insecurity, Food Access

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- The Maryland Food Bank has launched pilot programs targeting unemployment and underemployment, two of the leading causes of food insecurity, and increasing access to healthy, shelf-stable items, the organization said Tuesday.

Using a grant from the group Feeding America, the Workforce Development Partnerships program connects Baltimore-area residents with social services and job training in industries such as IT and healthcare that "provide family-sustaining wages and are not at risk of automation," the organization said.

The nonprofit said the unemployment rate in Baltimore is 6.8%, compared with 5% statewide, and among Black residents, it's nearly 10%. Young Baltimoreans between the ages of 16 and 24 and neither in school nor working, according to research from the nonprofit.

"There are lots of great programs aimed at supporting young people, but few offer all the tools to prepare them for jobs in the high-growth, good-paying industries we've identified," said Eliza Weeks, the Maryland Food Bank's senior manager of pilots and strategic initiatives. "We're also going the extra mile to help them overcome barriers by providing weekly food boxes and a stipend, giving participants one less thing to worry about."

The food bank has also rolled out an initiative to get Back Up Boxes containing 15 to 30 pound of food to people awaiting approval of SNAP benefits. Following an influx of application, the process takes 30 days on average, the nonprofit said.

Home delivery of the boxes is being tested through the online grocery ordering site OrderAhead.

"We realized quickly that OrderAhead made sense beyond being a 'gap filler' for SNAP recipients," said Weeks. "It could help us feed people in need that we were otherwise unable to reach. The elderly, people with illnesses or disabilities, college students, and home-bound populations, for example, may not be able to visit their local food pantry in person."

In March, the Maryland Food Bank released a study showing nearly half of Maryland families said their children were sometimes or often not eating enough food because of high costs.

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