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Wegmans steps up to feed families struggling in the suburbs

Thursday - 8/8/2013, 4:44pm  ET

GAITHERSBURG, Md. - Hunger doesn't go on vacation.

That's why services like Manna's Food Bank operate all year. And they stay busy. But what sets Manna apart is its location in affluent Montgomery County.

Jenna Umbriak, nutrition director at Manna, is used to hearing people say they're surprised to learn that poverty and hunger are problems in a county where the latest Census figures show the median household income is $95,000 a year.

But hunger and poverty do exist here. Figures from Montgomery County Schools show that 33 percent of the school system's students qualify for free or reduced meals.

Jenna Umbriak Manna is working with Johns Hopkins University to track poverty and the problems connected to hunger might be growing.

"What seems to be happening is that the cost of living is so high in the urban areas, people are moving out, people are moving to the suburbs," she says.

And those families need help.

"We give out on average about 16,000 pounds of food every day we distribute - that would be Monday through Friday, except for holidays," says Mark Foraker, Manna's development director.

Manna has a new partner in the fight against hunger. A Wegmans grocery store is opening in Germantown next month, and manager Phil Quatrinni and his staff unloaded 18,000 pounds of donated food for the center Thursday.

Quatrinni says that whenever Wegmans opens a new store, they meet with the community to see what the needs are, and working with Manna was a natural match.

"We have food waste," Quatrinni says.

Each day, Manna will pick up unsold food that would otherwise go to waste. As for Thursday's donation, Quatrinni explained why he felt it was so important to help food pantries in August.

"Everybody gives at Christmas time, but summertime and back to school, that's when people are feeling the pinch."

WTOP's Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @kateryanWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

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