A fraternity in Prince George’s County, Maryland, is celebrating one year of being able to hand out family food packages each week by doing what they do best: Giving out more food.
When the local chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity first started a local food giveaway for families in Suitland at the beginning of the pandemic, they weren’t sure how long they were going to be able to keep it up.
“I don’t think any of us had an idea, you know, of the longevity of it,” said Steven Walls, president of the Gamma Pi chapter.
He said they gave out more than 500 family food packages this weekend and people were lined up hours before they started.
“There’s never ever a weekend where there’s just a couple of cars: They’re lined up,” Walls said.
He thought it was symbolic heading back to Suitland High School for the anniversary giveaway because it was the first place that they gave out food for the project.
When they had the idea, they started doing research to see where the need was the greatest in the area. They found out that many elementary schools and middle schools had programs, but that high schoolers and their families needed a boost.
“We looked at the numbers and saw that there was a significant amount of students who were in the free and reduced meal program and the National School Lunch Program. In some areas in Prince George’s County, 80 to 100% of the students were on some type of assistance. So we decided that would kind of be our focus,” Smalls said.
They ended up approaching Dr. Monica Goldson, superintendent and CEO of Prince George’s County Public Schools with the idea and were given the go-ahead.
“She gave us her undying support, so we were allowed to start having distributions on the weekends, at high schools primarily,” Smalls said.
They then moved onto help senior communities, disabled communities, veterans and hospitals in the near-weekly food giveaways.
They’ve partnered with the Capital Area Food Bank and local grocery stores to get donations and discounted items to add to the bundles.
And, he said, they don’t have any plans on stopping.
“We’re committed to being here as long as the need exists,” Walls said. “We’re just really blessed that we’ve been able to garner the resources to continue to serve and be out here as long as we have.”