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Howard County accepts truckload of FEMA meal kits for expanded summer food program for children

June 11, 2018

Media Contacts:
Deidre McCabe, Director of Strategic Planning and Communications, 410-313-4023 
James Zoller, Agriculture Coordinator, 410-313-2056

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman today announced the expansion this summer of a free weekend meal program for low-income children and teens, making use of meal kits from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Earlier this month, the county accepted the delivery of 26 1,000-pound pallets of extended shelf-life meal kits from FEMA to use for the Weekend Warriors Snackpack program, started last year as a pilot under Kittleman’s Achieve 24/7 initiative. Any food not used in the Weekend Warriors program will be distributed through a network of local food pantries run by county churches, schools and nonprofits.
“There’s a perception that in Howard County, we don’t have people who struggle and need these resources, but we certainly do. More than 27,000 residents use the Howard County Food Bank each year. We’ll have five free lunch sites for students this summer. We want to do whatever we can to fill the gap to ensure food security, and this shipment of food will definitely help,” Kittleman said.

This summer, the Weekend Warriors Snackpacks will be distributed every Friday starting June 22 through Labor Day weekend at four of the five free summer lunch sites selected by and run through the Howard County Public School System. This year’s Weekend Warrior sites are: Harper’s Choice Middle School, Oakland Mills Middle School, Laurel Woods Elementary School and the East Columbia Branch Library.

“This food will be put to good use in Howard County for the people who need it the most,” said James Zoller, the county’s Agriculture Coordinator, who also runs the weekend food program. Last year, Zoller worked with local grocery stores to get food donations for the program, offered at two county schools. The county distributed more than 1,000 food backpacks to low-income children and teens from the end of June to the beginning of school in September.

Zoller used a small army of volunteers last summer to assemble the backpacks each week, which were filled with nutritious snacks and foods and plans to do the same this summer, utilizing much of the food donated by FEMA.

When Kittleman learned in April about the availability of surplus food, he worked with state and federal partners to arrange the truckload which was delivered to the county-owned Dorsey Building in Columbia. He thanked Governor Larry Hogan and Secretary Ellington Churchill of the state’s Department of General Services (DGS) for working with Howard County.

"The Hogan administration is proud of the dedication and hard work of everyone involved in coordinating the acquisition and distribution of these meal kits across the state,” said Churchill. “The response from the organizations who have received the meal kits has been very positive, and the Department of General Services is grateful that we were able to assist in addressing a critical need in our communities."

The FEMA meal kits were made available through a partnership between the Maryland Department of General Services, the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives and the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. The DGS Federal Surplus Property Donation Program enables eligible, non-federal organizations to obtain surplus personal property no longer needed by the federal government. 

“The Weekend Warriors program was so well received last summer, we planned to expand it this summer and the FEMA shipment makes that possible,” said Jackie Scott, director of the county’s Department of Community Resources and Services, which oversees multiple projects under the Achieve 24/7 umbrella. 

Kittleman launched Achieve 24/7 in 2017 to increase opportunities and break down barriers to success for all children and youth in Howard County by providing necessary resources and support. Achieve 24/7 programs and projects focus on improving outcomes in early childhood education, child mental health, summer food access, support for children at risk and other critical areas.