2022 Giving Campaign
How It Started
October 2022 marks two years since I first went out by myself to give away homemade mac and cheese to total strangers on the sidewalk in Penn North. I was originally motivated by a desire to connect with my fellow Baltimoreans after a summer of being isolated by the pandemic and horrified by the rhetoric of the election season and the violence of George Floyd’s murder. I had no plan beyond a one-time giveaway, but the conversations that people started with me about food and family over the mac and cheese stuck with me. I kept coming back, week after week, with new comfort food to offer: chicken noodle soup, red beans and rice, and of course, cornbread. Early on I was approached by a young man named Coach who worked in the corner barbershop. He said, “You’re always out here by yourself. Take my number and call me next time - I’ll come help you.” I took him up on the offer and for many weeks afterward it was just Coach and me standing behind a folding table. We became friends as he told me about the neighborhood and helped me better understand the people and places around us.
How It’s Going
Two years later, Love & Cornbread has expanded its reach and impact thanks to a remarkable cohort of volunteers, friends, and community partners. We have not missed a Saturday in two years and that consistency has helped us build trust and gain credibility in the community. We now have a crowd of regulars and friends waiting for us every Saturday at noon, and we now serve 150 guests each week with the help of 10-12 volunteers. In total, we have served approximately 10,000 meals since that first day on the sidewalk.
Our food: We have been able to improve both the quality and the quantity of the food we offer thanks to our new partnership with Our Time Kitchen, a shared-use commercial kitchen with a social justice mission. We bring together a dedicated crew of volunteers every Wednesday night and Saturday morning to prepare delicious meals from scratch, using produce grown by our friends at Baltimore City’s own Rock Rose Food Justice Project farm as well as by First Fruits Farm. Our meals are even more nutritious and appealing now that we have a professional kitchen in which to prep, cook, and store food. We’re working close with Rock Rose Food Justice Project to coordinate what they grow with what we like to cook so that we can incporate even more organic produce into our meals.
Our partners: We find joy in connecting with and supporting community organizations who have been working in Penn North since long before we arrived. We have built relationships with the Center for Urban Families (an organizational hub for groups working in Penn North), Safe Streets Sandtown (a gun violence reduction program) and Umar Boxing (an after school program combining tutoring services with boxing lessons) to name a few. We have also begun a powerful new partnership wtih Tuerk House (a non-profit drug and alcohol treatment center, urgent care, and crisis stabilization center) whose peer outreach coordinator joins us every week as a volunteer and a critical conduit between our guests and immediate help for their needs. We have also cultivated partnerships with groups that donate critical supplies for our guests, such as the Baltimore City Health Department (masks, gloves, Covid-19 test kits, wet wipes, sanitizer), Biggs & Featherbelle (soap), Lovely Yarns (hand-knitted hats and scarves), along with many others.
Our organization: We have established Love & Cornbread as a legal corporation in Maryland and are in the process of applying for non-profit status with the IRS. In the meantime, donations to Love & Cornbread are fully tax-deductible thanks to fiscal sponsorship by the Players Philanthropy Group, a recognized 501(c)3 organization. To protect our volunteers and our organization, we are now fully insured as well. as wellove & Cornbread is a project of Players Philanthropy Fund, a Maryland charitable trust recognized by IRS as a tax-exempt public charity under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Cod
The last two years have also taught us that Love & Cornbread is about more than food. What we are actually doing each week is building individual and community relationships through food. And as we do so, our guests come to trust us enough to ask for the help addressing the challenges in their lives, whether that is an overdue water bill, a need for stable housing, or a medical issue. We are now able, thanks to our relationships with community partners, to connect our guests with the help they need. We as Love & Cornbread aren’t equipped to help the person who wants to enter treatment for substance abuse disorder. But we have created a space where our guests feel safe enough to say to the volunteer they have chatted with every week, month after month: “I need help.” And when they ask for help, we can connect them directly to Tuerk House’s peer outreach coordinator who is one of our regular weekly volunteers. He knows the resources and programs available and can provide help right in the moment to a person in need.
What we have stumbled on with Love & Cornbread is a recipe for connection. The power of food has brought together volunteers and friends from all over the city, from all backgrounds and life experiences to share an hour of joyful connection in a city deeply scarred by systemic racism and historic injustices. By starting small with a meal made with love and by showing up week after week to demonstrate our commitment, we have built a space where the potential for helping our neighbors connect to the services they need and want is unlimited. And when their lives change, the neighborhood around them changes, and then the city itself is transformed. This is Love & Cornbread’s mission for the future: to transform the city of Baltimore by helping to connect individuals and communities to the resources they need to fulfill their potential.
We need your support to help us reach this ambitious goal of addressing Baltimore’s most intractable challenges, one meal, one person, one neighborhood at a time. We have new expenses associated with our growth and also resources/tools we’ll need to continue our mission. We have set a fundraising target of $40,000 this year in order to address our current major expenses: groceries and supplies for serving 150 guests each week, monthly fees at our new shared-use commercial kitchen, insurance, and more. In the future, we’d like to purchase a Love & Cornbread van so that we can easily and safely transport food and supplies to and from our serving location as well as collect donations and supplies. We would also like to revamp our website to better showcase who we are and what we do. And finally we need some additional support in areas such as bookkeeping and communications, and would like to hire hourly help in those areas to allow us to focus more on relationship building and community connection.
Can you help us reach our goal? Donations are fully tax-deductible and easy to make online or via check:
To donate online, please click here: https://give.cornerstone.cc/lovecornbread
To donate by check, please make payable to Love & Cornbread and mail to:
Players Philanthropy Fund
ATTN: Libby Huggins
1122 Kenilworth Drive STE #201
Towson, MD 21204
Our EIN# is 27-6601178
Love & Cornbread is a project of Players Philanthropy Fund, a Maryland charitable trust recognized by IRS as a tax-exempt public charity under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (Federal Tax ID: 27-6601178).