Loyola’s York Road Initiative provides support to Baltimore community during pandemic
| By Molly Robey
The York Road Initiative at Loyola University Maryland is supporting the resident-led York Road Partnership by providing emergency support services to local residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since late March, Loyola’s York Road Initiative team has coordinated efforts through the partnership and with area non-profit and public agency partners.
The York Road Partnership, which encompasses more than 40 neighborhoods and affiliates, works to promote the vitality of Baltimore City’s York Road community.
Emergency support services include helping to create a Mutual Aid Network—matching residents in the Govans neighborhood to food accessibility and prepared meals, food delivery services, and weekly phone check-ins to older adult residents. Resident volunteers also provide their neighbors with information on available resources for food services and enrollment information for long-term food access programs such as Meals on Wheels and federal supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits (SNAP).
“In the context of Loyola’s external community work, this is a time to stand tall and realize our assets, not to move inward,” said Marie McSweeney Anderson, assistant director of the York Road Initiative. “In order to continue putting actions behind our words of solidarity and place-based justice, Loyola must use its resources to ensure that the most vulnerable among us are taken care of. At the very least, people need access to basic housing and food. As the largest anchor institution in the Govans area, we need to open our resources. However small they may seem to us, they may be great to our neighbors in need.”
In addition to coordinating resident volunteers, Loyola administrators and student interns from the Center for Community Service and Justice at Loyola have conducted phone calls to older adult and vulnerable residents in the York Road community.
Loyola’s York Road Initiative has worked with long-term partner GEDCO CARES Food Pantry to support the continued need for food access, particularly to fresh produce. As of Friday, April 24, Loyola had donated nearly 3,000 pounds of food and produce to the CARES Food Pantry and the local Italian Cultural Center, which is distributing meals to families in the York Road community. The University continues to make produce donations every week by ordering through its food service vendor, Parkhurst Dining.
In an effort to distribute food to residents while the stay-at-home order is in place, volunteers from Loyola partner Rebuilding Together Baltimore will begin to deliver food pantry bags directly from the CARES pantry to residents in the Govans neighborhood.
Loyola’s York Road Initiative team will continue to support advocacy and coordination efforts for additional emergency food sites in the York Road community, especially in areas where car-access is limited. There are currently six emergency food sites supplying food and meals to residents in the 4th District. The sites include the Italian Cultural Center, Dewees Recreation Center, GEDCO CARES Food Pantry, Church of the Redeemed of the Lord, Yorkwood Elementary, and Walter P Carter Elementary. For more information on how to find emergency food site locations visit Baltimore City’s Emergency Food Insecurity Response website and Baltimore City Schools Meals website.
“The stark inequities present in our York Road community have been heightened by this pandemic,” said Erin O’Keefe, director of Loyola’s Center for Community Service and Justice and York Road Initiative. “Residents living on the west side of York Road, a majority of whom are white, drive cars to the grocery store or to pick up meals. Residents living on the east side of York Road, a majority of whom are black, and with a higher population of older adults, incur increased health risk by needing to take public transportation, limiting their ability to safely access free and reduced-cost food.”
To continue to provide fresh produce and food accessibility in the York Road community, Loyola’s Govanstowne Farmers’ Market will open for the season on Wednesday, June 3, at 5104 York Rd. New social distancing efforts will be in place, as well as a pre-ordering system, drive-through, and walk-up ordering. For more information visit the Govanstowne Farmers’ Market Facebook page and Govanstowne Farmers' Market website.