The Wash
The coronavirus pandemic has led to increased hunger in the District. Nonprofits have stepped up to provide meals and gift cards during the holiday season. (Courtesy of Tim Sackton)

Anti-hunger groups step up holiday season outreach during pandemic

Food and Friends, Bread for the City and Councilmember Trayon White’s office are among the entities providing families with food and other resources during this holiday season.

Local anti-hunger groups have always helped struggling families afford meals during the holiday season, but this year they have amped up their efforts or adjusted their outreach strategies completely given the additional burdens families face during the coronavirus pandemic.

Food and Friends, which serves people who are seriously ill, plans to prepare and deliver 3,500 holiday meals to adults and children in the District on Nov. 23, 24 and Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25. Bread for the City aims to provide 15,000 families with $50 Visa gift cards to purchase a turkey or ham, or whatever else is needed. And Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White aims to provide over 1,500 families in Ward 8 with turkeys for Thanksgiving on Nov. 24.

The hope is that the holiday season can still be celebrated, in one way or another.

This holiday season will be emotionally taxing, and a financial burden on many families. More than 246,000 people nationwide have died during the coronavirus pandemic, and more than 10.1 million cases have been reported. Many people have filed for unemployment, and a significant number of people, including in the District, have struggled to afford basic necessities such as rent and food.

And those numbers are expected to continue growing as case rates in the D.C. region explode as people move indoors due to the cold weather and as the flu season rounds the corner.

Ward 8, which is predominantly Black and low-income, has been among the hardest-hit wards in the city since the pandemic began. Bread for the City, which has a location in the Anacostia neighborhood of Ward 8, said demand for their food services more than doubled during the coronavirus pandemic.

The nonprofit decided that for this year’s Holiday Helpings initiative, it would switch from delivering turkeys and hams to delivering gift cards because the pandemic “has impacted many people in our community and right now a holiday meal may not be a priority,” George Jones, the chief executive officer of Bread for the City, said in a press release.

People can use the gift card to address other needs, such as paying a past-due bill or putting gas in their car, said Kenrick Thomas, a spokesman for the nonprofit. People can sign up for a gift card on their website. He said volunteers began distributing the gift cards this week, and recipients have the option of having the gift card sent to them electronically.

Bread for the City plans to distribute $50 gift cards to 15,000 families. The gift cards can be used for holiday meals and/or other pressing needs such as past-due bills. (Courtesy of Ted Eytan)

Food and Friends plans to prepare and deliver 3,500 holiday meals to adults and children in the District with illnesses, such as HIV/AIDS and cancer, on Nov. 23, 24 and Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25. Nearly 200 volunteers will be involved in the distribution. Altogether, staff will prepare 8,520 pounds of turkey, 1,065 pounds of roasted potatoes, 1,065 pounds of cornbread stuffing and 5,680 dinner rolls. Each dinner will serve five people. Giant Food is the lead sponsor of the event.

 Packing will happen at the Food & Friends facility in Northeast, D.C. And delivery pickup will occur at the Fort Totten Metro Station parking lot.

“The neighbors we serve are some of the most at-risk and isolated by the virus, so this festive meal and act of goodwill by our volunteers will go a long way to bring cheer and connection to each of them,” Carrie Stoltzfus, executive director of Food & Friends, said in an emailed statement.

Councilmember Trayon White’s annual Turkey giveaway will occur from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 24. During a recent faith leaders meeting, Wendy Glenn, the director of constituent services for Councilmember White, suggested churches email her at to register seniors. She said churches can help facilitate deliveries, which will be more difficult during the pandemic. Families can also call 202-724-8045 if they don’t have internet access in order to register for a turkey for their household.

“Meal giveaways take on new significance this year especially when so many more families are experiencing financial difficulties and are unable to gather as they may have previously,” said Hanna Baker, a Ward 8 area neighborhood commissioner.

Lola Fadulu

Lola Fadulu covers health in Southeast Washington for The Wash.

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