Rural solutions [to hunger and poverty] are not like urban solutions
— Rev Robert Hahn, Chairman EHCC
“People who work in grocery stores can’t afford to buy groceries.” U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D: MD) received that stark message Aug. 4 during a visit at End Hunger in Calvert in Huntingtown. The speaker was the non-profit’s founder, Rev. Robert Hahn, senior pastor of Chesapeake Church.
Founded in 2008, End Hunger in Calvert County operates a food distribution center in Prince Frederick and a job training program in facilities adjacent to the church, which also includes a café called the Lobby. Rev Hahn and End Hunger’s President Jacqueline Miller gave Sen. Cardin a tour of their facilities and then met with about two dozen of their workers and volunteers, other community organization representatives and clients of their services.
Rev Hahn told Cardin, who is a Baltimore native, that hunger and poverty in rural areas like Calvert is different from urban areas like Baltimore. For one thing, it’s more scattered. In Calvert County, a trailer and a mansion may be located next to each other. “Rural solutions are not like urban solutions,” Rev Hahn said.
Cardin observed that what is being done at End Hunger in Calvert County could be a model for the rest of the state and the nation “I don’t think anyone is doing what we are doing in the state,” Rev. Hahn said.
Hahn told Cardin that it‘s easier to collect 20,000 pounds of food than 200 pounds because grocery stores have substantial amounts to give up at a time. For years, churches all over the county had small food pantries which couldn’t handle the total need. Now End Hunger in Calvert County’s Prince Frederick warehouse collects food in large quantities and dispenses directly and to those other food pantries, Hahn explained.
During the facility tour, Hahn and Miller showed the senator their state-of-the-art kitchen where young people are trained for the food-service business. Many have gone on to become chefs and managers.
Hahn explained to Senator Cardin that when the church first started its food pantry, restaurants told him that they always had trouble finding and keeping line cooks. That’s where the idea came for starting the training program. “It just seemed to make sense,” he said.
After looking at the operation, Cardin enthused, “It’s a great deal.”
End Hunger in Calvert has parlayed the ideas of providing food to the hungry and providing training to the unemployed into a significant operation using a mix of grants and community donations with the support of the members of Chesapeake Church.
At the meeting in one of the facility’s conference rooms, Cardin noted that hunger was just one component of poverty. “Poverty is surely a common theme. Someone who works 40 hours in a week should not be in poverty.” he said. He noted that people making four times the poverty level can’t afford health insurance in America today. He said a better barometer other than the poverty level was needed to determine who needs safety net programs.