As Lake Forest Mall closes, food distribution programs will have to find new homes

For three years, So What Else, a Gaithersburg-based nonprofit, has established a food distribution program at the Lake Forest Mall, providing free food to families in need. But when the mall shuts down completely as part of a redevelopment plan at the end of the month, operations at the sprawling mall will also have to move.

The non-profit partners with local vendors and organizations to store fresh produce and other basic necessities in pantries, providing approximately £300,000 of food to the community each week.

SWE co-founder and executive director David Silbert said: “But this move has to come after the final distribution at the mall site in Gaithersburg.”

“We’re very close to the Rockville location,” Silbert said, adding that it’s not a closed deal.

He said three Gaithersburg churches are in talks with his organization to provide satellite pantry services while continuing to look for larger distribution points. “We seem to have God on our side,” he said, referring to an outreach from the local church.

Logistics and cost issues are barriers to easily securing larger spaces, Silbert said. It was difficult to find a site that was easily accessible by foot or by car and reasonably priced. But he points out that nonprofits have different ways to feed families.

“Group pick-ups, group drop-offs, 600 deliveries a week,” says Silbert, as well as satellite food distribution.

Silbert added that although the organization originally started as a youth development program in 2008, it aims to keep the food pantry running. “Providing all this food and seeing it scale and see the impact we are making is very rewarding,” he said.

This Saturday, the organization is hosting an event where volunteers can come and help clean up areas within the mall.

Check out our website and fundraising events to find out how you can help.

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