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United Way distributes 2.8 million pounds of food

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The United Way of Central Maryland's Access to Healthy Food Initiative distributed more than 2.8 million pounds of groceries — enough to fill 56 tractor trailers — to low-income individuals and families, the organization announced Tuesday.

Businesses, organizations and individuals, including 89 healthy food drives across the region hosted by Constellation Energy, Johns Hopkins institutions, LifeBridge Health and others, made contributions. The amount of food is nearly double the initiative's first-year goal set when it kicked off in 2011.

The announcement comes before the United Way's inaugural Families Living United Healthy Food Week from May 3-11. The goal of the event is to increase the availability of nutritious food. Businesses are asked to host healthy food drives that week.

"Spring and summer months yield a significant decline in donations to shelters, soup kitchens, pantries and food banks," according to Molly Shattuck, the organization's healthy food ambassador and founder of Molly Shattuck Vibrant Living. "The holidays are long past, so there is less attention around the need in our community. Unfortunately, hunger always exists and to a greater degree during the summer when kids aren't in school getting breakfast, lunch and sometimes even dinner. That's why it's important to contribute during Families Living United Healthy Food Week."

In Central Maryland, United Way reports that more than 300,000 people lack nutritious and safe food. The condition, known as food insecurity, is tied to an increased risk of illness and linked to diabetes, heart disease and childhood obesity. Additionally, food instability also is shown to affect a child's cognitive development, the United Way said.

"Expanding access to healthy food doesn't simply stave off hunger," Mark Furst, president of the local United Way, said in a statement. "Food is one of the most basic human needs and nutritious food supports overall health and well being as well as academic success in kids — important building blocks of self-sufficiency."

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