Kelly Spicer spent her early 20s as a single mother, working three jobs to feed and clothe her two young children. Despite her multiple salaries, Spicer said she relied on food stamps, but the stipend she received couldn't afford her children the most nutritional foods.
"I could make a box of pasta last for a few days, but what does that give you?" she said.
Spicer, 33, and her new husband, Tim, 41, both Eldersburg residents, were inspired to help struggling Carroll County families, as Spicer was, and are fundraising to start a nonprofit that would provide them with homegrown produce, and meats.
The Spicers' nonprofit, dubbed FreshAid, will operate under the model of community-supported agriculture. Typically, families buy shares of a CSA, a farm that provides them with fresh fruits, vegetables and meat products. Through FreshAid, donors and grants will supplement the funds to maintain operations.
Kelly Spicer said she and her husband intend to offer an array of vegetables, fruit, goat cheese, chicken and tilapia maintained under an aquaponics system. In the winter, Kelly Spicer said she envisions donating mixes of herbs, beans and dried foods that are essentially meals ready to be cooked, just add protein.
The amount of food donated will be based on family size and individual need, she said. Kelly Spicer said an interview will be conducted with the families to determine specific needs, and not be based on income, though she said she may develop a income qualifier later.
"I don't want to exclude anyone," she said.
Millions of Americans enrolled in food stamps, formally known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, saw their benefits cut severely Nov. 1, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This was due to the expiration of a boost in federal funding for the SNAP program. Roughly, it was a 5.5 percent decrease, according to Michael Wilson, director for Maryland Hunger Solutions.
Wilson said it's difficult for families to maintain a nutritious diet under these circumstances.
"You have less choices when you have less resources," he said.
Currently, the Spicers are breaking through the state's red tape to secure nonprofit status, which Kelly Spicer said should be by December. Because the their nonprofit hasn't yet been approved, they can't accept monetary donations, but are raising money for legal and start-up expenses by offering to haul away scrap metal and appliances for free, taking it to junk yards, who pay them for the metal.
Tim Spicer said he takes time from his hauling business in Eldersburg every week to travel across the county and pick and load up old refrigerators, wiring and more. He said he receives about $200 per load from scrap metal and recycling yards after filling up his 5x8 trailer and the flatbed of his Chevy Silverardo 2500, and that he and his wife are always looking for more.
"I go every day or every other day," he said.
Tim Spicer said his favorite part when the nonprofit comes to fruition will be the outside labor and working with his hands - he said he and Kelly developed the provisional idea even before they were married last year, but it really came to fruition within the last six months.
Kelly Spicer said the couple has been working for roughly six months to plan the nonprofit - the Office of the Secretary of the State released a comprehensive checklist dealing the process of creating a nonprofit, which includes drafting a mission statement, fundraising plan, bylaws. Then, you must select a board of directors, and file with the State Department of Assessments & Taxation, and that's just the beginning.
Kelly Spicer said they haven't yet landed a site for the farm, but are tentatively considering a 20-acre property in Westminster. If the couple closed on that property, they estimate being able to start up within six months. They will also live on that property.
"It's going to be a lot of work, but an awesome way to live," she said.
Dianna Stafford, who runs her family business, Stafford's Produce and Landscaping in Sykesville, produces similar homegrown vegetables that would be available at FreshAid. She said the food grown directly on a farm is of better quality and said the Spicers' idea is a good one.
"[Homegrown food] tastes good, it looks good, it's different than what you can get in the grocery," Stafford said.
Stafford said she has seen the younger generation, particularly newlyweds, take an interest in sustaining a healthful diet, and that her shop sees new customers almost daily. However, she said her family has had to work harder to earn less, simply because of the economy.
Kelly Spicer said she and her husband are still seeking help for the nonprofit.
To donate scrap metal for FreshAid, or find out more about the nonprofit's services, contact Kelly Spicer at 443-968-0960 or at email@example.com.