Wednesday, April 19, 2023

On the Map


Have you seen the map?

There’s a new map in town. It’s the Howard County Food Connections Map.

We’re used to local maps popping up these days, curated with a particular purpose such as where to see cherry blossoms close to home or the best holiday lights displays. This one is different. 

It was created to address ongoing food insecurity in our community. Here are some of the things you can find on the map:

Transit: Routes (blue line)

Transit: Bus Stops (blue bus)

Maryland Restaurants (Howard County Only): Yellow Pin

Summer Food Service Program Sites: Blue Pin

All Food Retailers (inlcuding non-SNAP): Red Pin

SNAP Food Retailers: Yellow Highlight

Food Assistance Programs: Green Marker

Nutrition Education Programs: Black Marker

WIC Vendors 2022: Blue Highlight

This map can be used not only by individuals trying to find food resources but also by community advocates/service providers who provide help to those in need. I’m still learning how the interactive map works so I can’t give you any expert descriptions of how to use it. But I did manage to locate a place I’m familiar with.

Here’s the map entry for Columbia Community Care food pantry location in Wilde Lake. I chose to look around in the 21045 zip code and there it was. The entry tells you when the food pantry is open, what they provide, and gives you a link to Columbia Community Care and a telephone number, as well. 

Columbia Community Care operates weekly food pantries in Wilde Lake, Oakland Mills, and Long Reach. They also provide home delivery throughout the country for residents who aren’t able to come to the food pantries. The entire process is driven by volunteers. Community members providing care for community members.

Image from Columbia Community Care website

Last night CCC Founder and Director Erika Strauss Chavarria put out an urgent request for donations to fund their food pantries. The need is ongoing. Cost of living expenses have been rising due to inflation. It’s possible for people to be working multiple jobs and still not be able to have enough funds to feed themselves and/or their families adequately. That produces what is now called “food insecurity.” 

Food insecurity is a term for what used to be described as “They didn’t know where their next meal was coming from.” Have you ever experienced that?

There have been a few times in my life when money was tight and food was…limited. Mostly, though, I have been able to get the food I needed for me and for my family. Daily living with access to food being an ongoing question mark is both frightening and exhausting. It impacts thinking, planning, interpersonal relationships, school performance, and more.

It feels a little ironic to me to be encouraging you to vote for your favorite restaurants on one day of the week and then asking you to donate to alleviate community hunger on another. But, here we are. If we have the resources to share - -  even in small amounts - - we become a part of a network of neighbors for neighbors. With neighbors. 

In a sense, we become an invisible part of The Map connecting families to food. 

No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted. - - Aesop

Donate here: Columbia Community Care

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