When the Lakeforest Mall closes, a food distribution program will have to find a new home

For three years, So What Else, a Gaithersburg-based nonprofit established a food distribution program at Lakeforest Mall, has provided free food to families in need. But at the end of the month, when the mall closes for good as part of a redevelopment plan, their operation at the sprawling mall will have to move out, too.

The nonprofit partners up with local vendors and organizations to stock pantries with fresh produce and other basic necessities and provides the community with nearly 300,000 pounds of food every week.

“We’re open Sunday, then we’re open Tuesday through Friday,” said David Silbert, co-founder and executive director of SWE. “But the move will have to come after those final distributions at the mall site in Gaithersburg.”

“We’re really, really close on a place in Rockville,” said Silbert, adding that it’s not a done deal.

He said three churches in Gaithersburg are in discussions with his organization to provide satellite pantry services while they continue to look for a larger distribution point. “It seems like we’ve got God on our side,” he said, referring to the outreach from local churches.

The issues of logistics and cost are barriers to easily getting a larger space, Silbert said. Finding a site that allows for easy access by foot and by car, and at a cost that’s affordable, has been a challenge. But he points out the nonprofit has a variety of methods to provide food to families.

“Group pickups, group drop-offs, 600 home deliveries a week,” and satellite food distributions, Silbert said.

Silbert added that the organization originally started as a youth development program in 2008 but is intent on keeping the food pantries running. “To provide all this food, and seeing the scale that it’s gotten up to, and the amount of impact we’re making has been very, very rewarding,” he said.

This Saturday, the organization is holding an event where volunteers can come and help them clean out their location in the mall.

For information on how to help out, check their website and fundraising events.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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