For more than 17 years, Asbury Church Assistance Network (ACAN) has assisted local families in need by providing access to fresh, healthy food. Because of the pandemic, that need is as great as ever, and federal CARES Act funds have helped ACAN meet that need.
ACAN prides itself on its consistent service of nutritious food delivered in a respectful and dignified manner. Fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, and canned and dry goods are available every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 11:00am until 2:00pm.
“We are not here to judge why you need food; we are here to make it available,” said Margo Arnoux, executive director of ACAN.
ACAN is restricted to Anne Arundel County residents and, therefore, requests customers to show a driver’s license. Additional verification of need is not required.
In March 2020, ACAN served 234 families, and that number has nearly tripled in the last 11 months. ACAN has been able to fulfill its mission and meet the growing need for food with funding from the CARES Act and assistance from ACAN’s community partners.
With funding awarded through Arundel Community Development Services, ACAN was able to put a second van on the road. A van, purchased in part with donations gathered by Good Neighbors Group, sat in the church parking lot for nearly a year and a half due to needed repairs, additional insurance and vehicle registration costs.
“We just had no budget to do the needed work. It is heartwarming to see the ‘little van,’ which we affectionately call it, the one we had labored and raised funds for, for nearly three years, actually out on the road," Arnoux explained.
Additional funds from the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County and private citizens support the use of both vans, used widely for food pickup and deliveries.
The funding from Arundel Community Development Services also allowed ACAN to reconfigure to a drive-up format as mandated by Centers for Disease Control guidelines and county restrictions. ACAN needed tents and portable tables to bring distribution outside, additional refrigeration and storage areas, and revamped space to prepare food boxes. The Maryland Food Bank and the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County awarded funds to be used to secure food from Maryland Food Bank’s Baltimore warehouse.
"We have found that when there is a need for food, there is likely a need for everything else," Arnoux said.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, ACAN was a self-choice pantry, where customers could select the items they wanted to eat. “We want people to have a sense of dignity and choice in the food they receive,” Arnoux said.
Although food is now assembled and placed in the vehicles of customers, ACAN remains true to its mission of choice through the “blessings table.” These socially distanced tables allow customers to get out of their vehicles to choose from hygiene items, over-the-counter medications, various artisan breads and overflow produce.
ACAN has successfully met the community need over the past year and recognizes its support from community organizations, corporate entities and citizens. The Maryland Food Bank and area grocery stores, for example, have provided ACAN with 10,000 pounds of food weekly.
ACAN needs more volunteers, especially drivers and anyone who specializes in marketing or social media. The public can also support ACAN by sending donations by mail to 429 Asbury Drive, Severna Park, MD 21146; donating online at www.acansevernapark.org; or texting “give” to 443-233-0870.