Newspaper Articles

Giving Back Food
By: Lynne Layug
Clarksville Neighbor, November 2016


Program Takes Bite out of Hunger
Robert Friedman

By the middle of the month, after paying her bills, Linda Umstead finds her $1,077 Social Security check stretched about as far as it can go. But she still needs groceries for the rest of month.

The 71-year-old Ellicott City resident said she “definitely would have difficulties” affording the food she needs without the “Food on the 15th” program — an all-volunteer effort that provides free groceries to older Howard County residents around the 15th of each month. 

“I have diabetes and high blood pressure, and I can’t work anymore,” said Umstead, who spent 45 years as a bartender before she stopped working in 2004. “I feel blessed” to be a Food on the 15th recipient, she said.

Sharlotte Wilcox, 66, who receives food stamps (the daily allowance is about $4.50) is also helped by the program. Wilcox used to interview patients at healthcare facilities, but lost her job two years ago. Also living on her Social Security check, she is helped by Food on the 15th to fill her monthly nutrition needs.

“They are outstandingly nice people,” Wilcox said of the volunteers, most of whom are local students — from elementary to high school — and their parents.

Umstead and Wilcox each live alone in the 25-unit Tiber Hudson low-income senior apartments in Ellicott City. Each month, Food on the 15th makes a “grocery-store” delivery to Tiber Hudson, setting out food by categories on tables in the building’s community room.

Many are canned goods, though sometimes fresh fruits and vegetables are available. The residents then do their “shopping,” the food is bagged, and the students and their parents help carry the packages to the apartments.

“For those of us who don’t drive and can’t go grocery shopping, it’s a wonderful thing,” said Umstead.

A growing problem

In the U.S., 9.3 million people over the age of 60 — one in six — face the threat of hunger, according to the National Resource Center on Nutrition and Aging, which coordinates senior nutrition programs around the country.

The number of “food insecure seniors” is expected to increase 50 percent by 2025, when the youngest of the baby boom generation reaches age 60.

The latest Census Bureau figures show that Howard County residents have an average annual household income of $108,000, the second highest in the nation. Nevertheless, “food insecurity” among seniors in the county is a “serious problem,” according to Maryland Hunger Solutions, a Baltimore-based non-profit that fights hunger.

Enter Julie Rosenthal of Clarksville and Food on the 15th. [No relation to the publisher of the Beacon.]

In 2006, working in conjunction with the county’s Coalition of Geriatric Services (COGS), Rosenthal founded the award-winning program she still runs on what she proudly says is a “zero” budget.

The food, mostly non-perishables, is donated by students, teachers, parents and staff of the schools involved in the program, as well as from companies, nonprofits, churches and members of the local community. Some nonprofits, such as COGS, make Food on the 15th a prime beneficiary.

For the past eight years, students and their parents have been sorting, bagging and delivering food to residents of two low-income senior buildings: Tiber Hudson in Ellicott City and Morningside Park Apartments in Jessup. During the summer, area churches have taken up the collections and made deliveries.

County schools involved in the project include Pointers Run Elementary in Clarksville, Dayton Oaks Elementary, Clarksville Elementary, Clarksville Middle School and Atholton High School in Columbia.

A new Asian pantry

Residents at Longwood Apartments in Columbia were added to the program in 2014 with the help of the University of Maryland Baltimore Campus (UMBC).

Rosenthal, who works in UMBC’s Asian Studies Program as a program management specialist (which involves marketing and community outreach, among other things), told the program director that there were many low-income Asian seniors living at Longwood. An internship was created for UMBC students to work as translators and food pantry workers for the many Chinese and Korean residents living there.

The Asian Food Pantry, based on the Food on the 15th model, was started last year at the five-story building. Now about 90 of the 170 residents receive their special noodles, soy beans, seaweed, fish, canned fruit and Asian condiments without charge.

The student interns implemented and maintain the pantry. Besides translating for the residents, many of whom are immigrants who speak little or no English, they also assist with music, English and exercise classes at the complex.

Intentionally intergenerational

Rosenthal, 56, said in a recent interview that, so far, Food on the 15th has delivered more than 18,000 bags of groceries and toiletries free to low-income seniors.

The program began, she said, when she realized that her then 10-year-old daughter thought that food was easily available to everyone. “She thought that if you didn’t have food, you just went to the ATM and got out money and bought it,” said Rosenthal.

So she set out to teach her daughter and other youngsters that, even in such an affluent community as Howard County, food could be in short supply for a significant number of older people. Many of them, she noted, even had to choose between buying needed medications and groceries as their monthly income ran out.

Rosenthal decided to start a community service project for children of all ages who would donate their time and learn the hard facts of life for many of their elders.

“I wanted them to see the beginning, the middle and the end of the project, when they collected the food, sorted it and delivered it,” Rosenthal said. “The parents also were involved.”

How much time does Rosenthal still put into the project? “I am generally working on Food on the 15th or the Asian Food Pantry seven days a week,” she said, “since I’m always checking e-mail, texts and Facebook to make sure that I respond to interns and volunteers on a timely basis so that the program moves forward.”

What drives the mother of two, who in 2013 won the Association of Community Services Volunteer of the Year Award, to continue to devote what she figures must be “thousands of hours” to the program?

“I get a great pleasure in helping people,” she said. “It makes me happy.”

Tax deductible donations may be made out to the Coalition of Geriatric Services (COGS) and mailed to The Coalition of Geriatric Services, P.O. Box  2131, Ellicott City, MD  21041. Please write “Food on the 15th” on the memo line.

http://www.thebeaconnewspapers.com/select-stories/features/program-takes-bite-out-hunger


Food on the 15th connects generations of Howard residents
Lisa Philip

In 2006, Julie Rosenthal wanted to teach her daughter a lesson about giving back to the community. Nine years later, that lesson has grown into an organization that has provided more than 24,000 bags of groceries to senior citizens in Howard County.

One day when Rosenthal's daughter was in fifth grade, she came downstairs and said that there was nothing to eat, even though there was food in the house. Rosenthal told her daughter that there are people in Howard County who really do not have anything to eat and Jennifer responded, "Why don't they look in the pantry?"

"She had no concept that there are hungry people in our community," Rosenthal said, "so I figured other kids in the neighborhood think the same thing."

Instead of finding an existing volunteer opportunity for her daughter, to teach her about those who are less fortunate, she decided to create one.

"I wanted to come up with something to give kids of any age an opportunity to see that not everyone has what they have, and that they can make positive change," she said.

The result was Food on the 15th, a program through which Howard County students both collect and distribute groceries and toiletries to seniors citizens in the county.

"I wanted the children to see the entire process," Rosenthal said. "I didn't want them to just collect the food and see it disappear from a collection box. Social security checks typically run out by the 15th and the food that we bring them tides them over until the next check arrives."

Dayton Oaks Elementary, Clarksville Middle and Pointers Run Elementary schools currently participate in the program during the week, but Food on the 15th also operates a Saturday food distribution event so that working parents can volunteer with their kids.

"Four years ago we started a program at Tiber Hudson," Rosenthal said, referring to senior apartments in Ellicott City where Food on the 15th distributes canned goods once a month. "We offer volunteer opportunities there to any child of any age, as long as your parent is there to supervise you. It creates quality family time."

During the November distribution event last Saturday, Rosenthal directed students and their parents in sorting through the hundreds of canned goods they had collected for the residents at Tiber Hudson.

"I want to stress that this is definitely a community project," Rosenthal said. "This would not be happening without the support of the community. And we're very fortunate that we live in a generous community. If I post on Facebook that we're short on peanut butter or cereal, they go out and buy it and drop it off."

One family even donates vegetarian Indian food for a few Tiber Hudson residents who have special dietary restrictions.

"Make sure you check the expiration dates," Rosenthal told the students. "We can't give them food that is expired."

With the help of their parents, students separated and laid out the boxes of cereal, canned vegetables and instant meals with the labels facing out so that the residents could read them. The seniors then moved around the tables picking out food and handing it to their student helpers, who carried residents' grocery bags.

"These are really easy to make," 12-year-old Harrison Cohen said to resident Brenda Jones, pointing out a packet of instant rice. Harrison, a sixth-grader at Wilde Lake Middle School, has been volunteering for Food on the 15th for two years.

"I've helped [Jones] before," he said with a smile.

The two laughed and chatted while they "shopped." Harrison told Jones about winning his basketball game the night before and about wanting to be a genetic engineer when he grows up.

"He's always so nice and sweet," Jones said. "He's a gentleman."

"It's so nice to see such a nice mix of people — the young, the old, the diversity," said Rose Miller, who watched the interaction from nearby. Saturday's event was her first time volunteering for Food on the 15th. "Young people are doing good things," she said.

After Jones had picked out enough cans and boxes to fill her grocery bag, Harrison and his mother, Pamela Cohen, helped Jones back to her second-floor apartment.

"How are you? It's good to see you," Cohen said to Jones while waiting for the elevator.

"Always a pleasure," Jones said.

"It's nice because, even though [Harrison's] grandparents are here, his great grandparents are out of state," Cohen said. "So not only does he get to see his grandparents, but he gets to see these guys, too."

After inviting Harrison and his mother into her apartment, Jones gave both a big hug.

"I really appreciate it," she said. "Thank you so much."

"And congratulations again," she said about Harrison's basketball game. "Keep up the good work!"

Back on the first floor, Harrison talked about what he has learned by volunteering for Food on the 15th.

"Everybody needs help in the end," he said. "And if you can help you should. I usually don't want to wake up on Saturday morning to do this, but I'm like, it's for the greater good of society. And I feel that it's a good thing to do."






Julie Rosenthal Named Volunteer of the Year by the Association for Community Service (ACS)  for the 38th Annual Audrey Robbins Humanitarian Award for her work with Food on the 15th.
 

UMBC Article
ACS Article


Food on the 15th was featured on the front page of the Washington Post's Metro Section on November 22, 2011. Click on the link for the story:



Getting good food to seniors is just 'being nice'

Columbia Flier - School Days  By Medina Roshan  mroshan@patuxent.com

 
Every month (save for summer) for the past four years, students at Pointers Run Elementary School and Clarksville Middle School have delivered food to
needy senior citizens at the Morningside Park Apartments in Jessup.  Now in its fifth year, the delivery program, "Food on the 15th," is hoping to expand.  As the name of the program suggests, the food is usually delivered by students and parent volunteers on the 15th of each month. Everything from cereal to toothpaste to Weis grocery s tore gift cards is included in the students' deliveries to 45 residents at the apartment complex.  Evan Monthie, a fifth-grader at Pointers Run, summed up his experience with the program as simply "being nice."  Parent Julie Rosenthal founded the program while her daughter was in fifth grade at Pointers Run. When her daughter entered Clarksville Middle, the food delivery program was extended to involve students from both schools, which are situated across the street from one another.  "I started the program because my daughter did not understand that there were people that were hungry in Howard County," Rosenthal said.  Having worked with low-income senior citizens in the past, Rosenthal said she thought helping seniors with groceries would be a worthy cause.  Expanding the program will take several steps, according to Rosenthal. In the near future, she hopes to enlist the support of local restaurants, among other initiatives. Beyond that, she hopes the program will become a model for other schools on the county level and beyond.  The students' efforts are well-received by the seniors, she said.  "I had one gentleman tell me that 'every month it's just like Christmas,' " Rosenthal said.  James Laukzemis, an eighth-grader who participated in the program last year, recalled the gratitude he and other students received from the seniors.  "They were always saying 'thank you' and 'God bless you,' " he said. "I saw how grateful that these people were. It made me feel good."  Morningside resident Clara McLean, 72, said she appreciates the way students cater the groceries to each resident's needs. She cares for her brother James Liles, who has throat cancer and has trouble eating certain foods.  "There's a lot of stuff that he can't eat," she said. "They try to give him soft foods."  Parent Kelly Mason, coordinator of the program at Pointers Run, said elementary students regularly collect nonperishable items for the deliveries, while middle school students collect food for diabetics and toiletries.  During the summer months, New Hope Adventist  Church in Fulton (the church of a Clarksville parent) takes over the deliveries.
- September 17th, 2010

 
An appetite for helping: Students deliver food
Baltimore Sun  By Laura Shovan

For a senior residence, Morningside Park Apartments was bustling with activity. Children and their parents filled the usually quiet hallways Monday afternoon, some pushing grocery carts full of food, others delivering overstuffed supermarket bags door to door.
Once a month, students from Pointers Run Elementary School collect, sort and deliver food to the financially hard-pressed seniors at this Jessup building.
Julie Rosenthal, a board member of the Coalition of Geriatric Services in Howard County, coordinates the monthly program, Food on the 15th.
"A lot of the senior citizens were living Social Security check to Social Security check, and around the middle of the month - the 15th of the month - they were running out of money," she said.
Rosenthal began the program at Pointers Run in September 2006. When her daughter moved to Clarksville Middle, that school's sixth grade joined the effort, collecting groceries for diabetic residents as a yearlong service project.
Rosenthal remembers the morning she realized that "my children couldn't comprehend not having enough to eat. ... They didn't understand that people could come downstairs in the morning and not have food in the fridge."
She guessed that other children in her Clarksville community probably thought the same thing.
In designing Food on the 15th with Pointers Run, Rosenthal wanted students involved in every aspect. Children and parents collect, sort, bag and deliver food to Morningside residents.
"They're seeing a person who's actually getting the food," Rosenthal said. "They're not just dropping a can in a box and not knowing what happens to that can."
The school's PTA and administration supported Food on the 15th immediately, Rosenthal said. Starting with 30 bags of groceries last September, Pointers Run delivered 600 bags to the residents during the school year.
Fulton's New Hope Adventist Church took over in June, July and August so that seniors would get their groceries while school was out.
All of Morningside's residents are 55 or older and live on less than $30,000 a year.
A typical Food on the 15th grocery bag contains nonperishable items, including fruits, vegetables, pasta and breakfast foods. Some bags were so full Monday that they were too heavy for the elementary students to carry. While older children helped sort the food, younger students decorated a card for each senior in the program.
Noah Shapiro, 9, a fourth-grader at Pointers Run, said his mother wanted him to participate in the program last year. "Now I do it because it's fun. It's just a fun atmosphere," he said as he sorted food in the school media center and made deliveries.
Morningside resident William Harmon, 62, gets a phone call when the children are on the way. He stands in the halls directing traffic and delivering a few bags himself.
Harmon said residents "think it's great. They're really very appreciative. I think this is a great thing that they're doing."
- September 19th, 2007

 
Students at Clarksville Middle School pack groceries donated by students and staff for local seniors on fixed incomes. Teacher Sandy Vinje works with sixth-graders Brian Rabinowitz and Alyssa Riegel, right, and Ashley Spoon, left.
- September 17th, 2010

Food collection teaches students lesson of giving  
Howard County Times - School Days  By Stefanie Ickowski

Students at Pointers Run Elementary School have been learning about the importance of giving by participating in ''Food on the 15th," a program where students collect and deliver groceries to needy seniors.
The program was developed by the school's PTA outreach committee, co-chaired by Julie Rosenthal.
"I designed the program to feed hungry senior citizens in our community, as well as teach children about philanthropy," she said.
During the third week of each month, many seniors have to choose between buying groceries or purchasing prescription drugs as their Social Security check runs out and they wait for the next one to arrive, Rosenthal said.
The committee chose a senior apartment complex near the school where all of the residents live on $29,000 or less per year, Rosenthal added.
The school's fifth-graders, who helped coordinate the project, distributed fliers explaining the project to the building's residents.
"Our first delivery was in October and we delivered 33 bags of groceries," said Angie Bernard, the PTA community service co-chair. "The amount requested has gone up every week. We have at least 37 bags ready for this month's delivery."
Bernard said the entire school has been involved in the project, and estimated that about 500 individual food items have been donated so far. Students place their food donations in collection bins around the school.
"The kids made posters to put up around the school, and they help sort food and go on deliveries with their parents," Bernard said. "We really wanted to have it be more than just moms putting food in their child's backpack."
Community businesses and organizations, such as the Cub Scouts, Roots Market and Great Harvest Bread Co., have also made donations of food and delivery supplies.
"It's important to teach children the art of philanthropy as well as the importance of community service," Rosenthal said. "It's wonderful to be able to donate money to organizations, but it's also an incredible feeling to be able to donate your time, energy and creativity to a project, especially when it's a team effort."
- November 9th, 2006

Senior food program teaches students lessons about community

Special to The Baltimore Sun By Janene Holzberg

When the loaded school bus arrives in a Jessup parking lot each month, 40 Clarksville Middle School sixth-graders tumble out in a tangle of chatty anticipation and field trip-fueled glee.

But instead of visiting a museum or historical site, the 11-year-olds are making a pilgrimage to Morningside Park Apartments, where they deliver bags of food and toiletries to residents who depend on the donations to make ends meet.

Later, on those same days, fifth-graders from Pointers Run Elementary play out the same scene with a different set of residents.

"This program is near and dear to all the kids' hearts," said Julie Rosenthal, who conceived of the food distribution program called Food on the 15th four years ago. Since then, participants have doled out 4,000 bags of free groceries and toiletries to income-qualified seniors.

This year for the first time, students are not only collecting, sorting and bagging groceries, toiletries and $10 gift cards, she said, but are taking turns leaving school once a month for 90 minutes or so to hand-deliver their bounty and make personal contact with the recipients.

"They are making a connection with the seniors and bringing about positive change in their community," said Rosenthal, who concedes that her family thinks she's "obsessed" with the benefits of the service-learning program.

The distribution program melds the largesse of the families of several Clarksville-area public schools with the needs of low-income seniors, she said, noting that the existence of county residents who don't have enough to eat is a revelation to many students.

"The kids get back 10 million times more than they give," said Rosenthal. "It's just been the most amazing thing."

While December's outing was postponed Thursday because of snow that arrived earlier than expected, bags that had been carefully packed that morning at Clarksville Middle were ready to go for the rescheduled trip.

Morningside Park resident Carmen Pow, 82, said she looks forward to the 15th of the month as much for the kids' visit as for the supplies, which she relies on to restock her shelves.

"It's certainly a nice program, and the kids get a lot out of it, too," said Pow, who grew up during the Depression.

"They are all so sweet, but today's kids have so much," she said. "This program teaches them there are people in our country who really need their help."

 Organizers chose the catchy, alliterative name for their effort because the older citizens it serves are often low on food and other supplies around the 15th of each month when their Social Security dollars begin to run out, Rosenthal said.

"This program was born when my daughter, Jenny Mandl, was complaining one morning that we had nothing good to eat for breakfast, and I told her that people 15 minutes away often run out of food," said Rosenthal, who formerly worked in a geriatrics program.

The program quickly caught on and was expanded to Clarksville Middle and then to Atholton High, where Jenny is now a freshman and her brother, Michael Mandl, is a senior. Organizers are seeking high school students throughout the county to serve as coordinators, Rosenthal said.

Alex Wang, a junior at River Hill High, serves as a bread coordinator and recommends getting involved.

"I really enjoy the work and seeing the tangible effect it has on the community," said Wang, a violinist and pianist who is also working to arrange a student holiday recital at Morningside Park. "When you have grandparents, you can really relate to the issues of seniors."

Melissa Shindel, principal of Clarksville Middle, was so impressed with the objectives of Food on the 15th that she nominated it for a Healthy Schools Innovation Award in the nutrition category, which it won in May. Sponsored by Healthy Howard, the contest places an emphasis on programs that are sustainable and can be expanded, she said.

Businesses donate reusable bags, and a bus company supplies its services at a reduced fee, "all because Julie is so passionate about it that she makes other people believe in it," Shindel said.

And moving the kids into delivery "makes it real and personalizes the kids' efforts," she said.

"The first time they went, the kids came back and were telling stories about the people they met," said Shindel, who's in her second year at Clarksville Middle. "The kids are very impressionable, and their intentions are pure. It is very moving to see."

Sandra Vinje, earth science teacher and field trip supervisor, said it's very meaningful to her 220 students, who collect food suitable for diabetic seniors, to know they're making a difference in the lives of people who might have otherwise been forced to choose between buying food or medicine.

The 50 residents who participate in the program are living on $35,200 or less for a household of two, and the majority of them have significantly lower incomes, said Cynthia Lynch of Howard County Housing.

Vinje's classes also learn about diabetes and what foods are appropriate in a diabetic's diet. The 10 sections of earth science students take turns handling the delivery, she said, each student paying $3 to ride the bus.

"And they also learn about responsibility," noted Vinje. "They realize they need to keep their commitment every month because people continue to be in need."

Seventh-graders at the school collect toiletries and Pointers Run students collect regular food items, she said. And when school is closed during the summer, New Hope Seventh-day Adventist Church fills the gaps in the delivery schedule.

"One of the great things about the program is that it has zero overhead," said Rosenthal, who coordinates Food on the 15th through the Coalition of Geriatrics Services, a nonprofit organization that serves a five-county region.

Debbie Herman, who serves as COGS treasurer and is a teacher at Cradlerock School in Columbia, said COGS happily serves as a conduit for soliciting donations.

"It's a nice merging of our efforts and it meshes the young and the old," she said. "Many kids are not aware of what goes on in the community, especially if they can afford $40 T-shirts and drive BMWs. We're doing kids a disservice when we don't involve them in something like this."

Donna Powers, resident services director for Equity Management, readily agreed.

"Food on the 15th is huge at Morningside Park, but not just for the residents," she said. "It's really a good way to teach children. This is the type of social programming that our society misses out on to some degree."

So successful has the effort been that it is set to expand in 2011 to all 25 units at the Tiber Hudson Apartments in Ellicott City, she said, adding the program "breathes new life" into the community.

"We haven't been taking good care of our elders, but I think society as a whole is changing back" to how it used to be, Powers said. "The economy is helping us to see what's important."

The valuable lessons for students and parents alike are far from lost on Rosenthal.

"We can't change the whole world, but we can change a piece of it in our own backyard," she said.

-December 18th, 2010