A young mother with two small, active children; an elderly man whose face is deeply etched with wrinkles; a disabled veteran leaning on his cane; or a young man dressed in brightly colored athletic clothing – these are just a few of the daily patrons of the Frederick Rescue Mission’s Bread of Life Food Ministry.
The Mission serves thousands of Frederick County citizens through its George L. Shields Kitchen and its Food Distribution Center. Those who benefit from the program might be homeless or suffering from an addiction. But they might also be employed, own a house and a car, but have an income just above the poverty level. They can’t make ends meet each month, so they rely on the Mission to help them bridge the gap.
Because of these programs, people in need can either receive a hot, freshly-prepared breakfast and lunch seven days per week, or they can shop for groceries to take home to their families twice per week during operating hours.
In addition to the nutritious meals provided by the Mission, the large cafeteria serves as a gathering place where people can connect with one another for encouragement and support. One regular patron credits the social support system he finds during mealtimes with helping fight off depression and ensuring he stays connected to the community.
“I love to come here to check on my friends, see familiar faces, and experience a strong sense of community,” he said.
The recently renovated kitchen has served well over 50,000 meals so far in 2019. Guests come for breakfast from 7-8 a.m. and for lunch between noon-1:30 p.m. (except Sunday, when it is open between 1-2 p.m.).
The Food Distribution Center, also recently renovated and reopened in August of 2016, offers families and individuals free donated perishable goods, which they can take home. Guy Mutchler, Manager of Facilities and Food Acquisition, said there are currently 6,615 unique local households registered to receive food through the facility. All that is required is a photo ID, which helps the Mission keep track of visits per week (two visits per week are allowed).
Mutchler says that the Center handles about 2.6 million pounds of food per year, all donated by local vendors, “box stores,” grocery stores, and the Maryland Food Bank, who is their largest partner. When Mutchler started working for the Mission over 24 years ago, their truck made nine stops per day to pick up out-of-date or soon to be out-of-date bread.
“When I started, all we gave away was bread. Now, our trucks make about 60 stops per day all year long,” he said.
Bread is now just a small portion of the food items they collect. As Frederick County grew, so did the number of businesses who were willing to make charitable donations.
“It’s all about relationships,” says Mutchler. “Frederick really is a caring community that is willing to provide for those less fortunate.”
It saddens Mutchler to see the desperate need in some of those who shop for food at the Center. For example, many of them are senior citizens.
“I deal with many seniors who must choose between getting their prescriptions filled and buying food,” he observed.
Mutchler helps seniors and people with disabilities by letting them shop first, before it gets too crowded. The Center is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 1:30-3:30 p.m., and on Thursday evenings from 5-7 p.m.
The Mission is grateful for the support it receives from volunteers, donors, and local businesses and organizations. From preparing and serving meals to stocking the shelves and assisting daily shoppers, the Mission is committed to providing food for the hungry in Frederick County for many years to come.