May 28, 2020 – A coalition of nonprofits, local businesses and commercial real estate firms has created a network of weekly pop-up markets that are supporting struggling families, easing shopping for consumers and helping companies sustain their operations and staff.
Shortly after the pandemic shuttered businesses and triggered layoffs, Baltimore County Together began distributing boxes of fresh food through Saturday morning pop-up markets. For $20, individuals can buy an approximately 15-pound box of fresh fruit, fresh vegetables or a mix of fruit, vegetables, bread and eggs. Orders are placed online during the week and buyers can select a convenient pop-up site to collect their purchase. Volunteers set up 15 markets each Saturday morning and deliver boxes (up to 120 per location) to buyers’ cars as they drive through. The food is supplied by two companies, Ever Fresh and Keany Produce and Gourmet.
“People can order fresh produce directly from a produce supplier at a sizeable discount from what it would cost in a grocery store and collect it in a safe and socially distanced way,” said Tim Bojanowski, President of Zest Social Media Solutions and an organizer of Baltimore County Together.
The pop-ups enabled Ever Fresh and Keany to bring more than 100 employees back to work, Bojanowski said. The companies normally supply restaurants, schools and other commercial food operations that have been mostly shut down by the pandemic.
Supported by Mackenzie, Merritt Companies and multiple other companies and charities, Baltimore County Together is also addressing significantly heightened food insecurity among county residents. Through the nonprofit’s website, organizations and individuals can purchase food boxes for individuals in need. In a little over a month, the organization raised more than $150,000. To date, it has distributing 6,600 free boxes of food through the Saturday morning markets.
“People across the county have purchased boxes for complete strangers,” Bojanowski said. “There are people out there who have suddenly become unemployed, maybe for the first time in their lives and they are facing needs they have never experienced people… Myriad local businesses, churches, charities, volunteers and donors are trying to meet those needs.”