State Watch

Ex-Capitol Hill staffers build food pantry in pandemic

What began as one family’s effort to keep their children engaged in their community in the midst of an isolating pandemic has mushroomed into a massive new project that will feed hundreds of families in the Washington area over the holiday season.

Amber Marchand, a former aide to Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and a chief spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said she started a small food drive earlier this year as a way to teach her kids about needy families. But neighbors filled the box she put in front of her Northern Virginia home so quickly that she decided to expand.

When the Washington-based nonprofit Martha’s Table asked for 250 sandwiches a day, so many people signed up to make them that the Marchands had to buy miniature refrigerators from Costco just to store them.

Now, months later, Marchand’s new nonprofit, Be The Good, is set to deliver its 30,000th sandwich.

“We were trying to find constructive ways to engage [our children] and show them that they could have an impact in the midst of this strange situation. We talked to them a lot in the beginning about why we’re doing a food drive,” Marchand said. “Our home has started to look like a small grocery store.”

Be The Good distributed more than 320 care packages, 25-pound bags of food, to families in need over the Thanksgiving holiday. Marchand said they plan to deliver more than 560 bags, each with a $20 gift card along with nonperishable food, over Christmas.

The coronavirus pandemic and the economic downturn it has caused among low-income families have put unprecedented pressure on food banks as food insecurity rises. An estimated 25 million Americans reported not having enough to eat over the past week, according to a survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, and 14 million households with children said they sometimes or often do not have enough to eat.

Martha’s Table was serving 80 people a day through its mobile unit before the pandemic. Now, it serves more than 200 a day.

Marchand said Be The Good has attracted volunteers from across the Washington area, an outlet for those who have the ability to give at a time when needs are rising. Her husband Sterling, a former top aide to the House Homeland Security Committee, dressed as Santa over the weekend to greet volunteers.

“It is harder to volunteer right now,” Amber Marchand said. “And this is an easy way to help safely from your home.”

Tags Be the good Coronavirus COVID-19 Food bank Martha’s Table Pandemic Roy Blunt

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