Before she went skating with her friends on Sunday, 11-year-old Manneka Zimmerman gazed into the bag she’d brought and began to tally how many cans of beans, soups, and packs of rice cakes she had brought to the red recreational vehicle which spent six hours that day parked near the front of the Cabin John Ice Rink’s parking lot.
A large sign affixed to the vehicle instructed those headed in for skating and ice hockey practice to “Come in. Donate Food. Join us in making more holiday meals possible.”
Inside the vehicle were three large glass enclosures – one for cans, another for boxed food and the last for bagged food. As each participant stopped by to drop off their donations, they utilized a large computer terminal to record their name, email address, and the number of containers of food they’d donated.
Elsa Bell, a 12-year-old student at Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, dropped off two boxes of whole grain spaghetti and seven cans of food. “This was a thing our school was doing, and I thought it was a good thing,” she said, before heading off to the rink.
Fellow student Rosa Casey-Teeley, 12, said her parents “do a lot for charity,” and the family wanted to participate.
The girls barely glanced up at either the vehicle walls – which were covered by informational posters – or a video playing in the background which detailed the harsh reality of hunger in America.
The pop-up project was a joint effort between the United Way – which provided $5 million in funding – and Wells Fargo Bank, whose 5,900 branch locations will do double duty as holiday food banks this season.
“The stark reality is that one in seven Americans relies on a food bank over the holidays to help put food on the table,” said Mary Mack, head of Community Banking at Wells Fargo. “By bringing together our customers, our team members, nonprofits and others, we’ll make it easier for everyone to enjoy holiday meals together.
According to information from Wells Fargo, 41.2 million Americans are food insecure, meaning they can’t always obtain or afford adequate nutrition. Holidays are a particularly difficult time because many people tend to get together to share meals.
Some 71 percent of the people who use food banks say that getting food at this time of the year is very important to them, according to Wells Fargo.
The average family has nine expired non-perishable foods at home, and three out of four people discard at least some of their non-perishable foods they purchase for the holidays, according to Wells Fargo. At the same time, 70 percent of the people said they felt guilty when throwing away so much food during the holidays.
Besides the posters, there was a shelf in the vehicle where children could color placemats, which according to a nearby sign, were to be given “to those in need to dress their tables this holiday.”
In addition to operating the temporary food banks, Wells Fargo volunteers will deliver meals, sort goods and work to fight hunger in 14 states and Washington, D.C. through 41 food-related nonprofits.
Last year, the bank donated $280 million to nonprofits and employees volunteered 1.7 million volunteer hours to their favorite charities.