As temperatures drop, it unfortunately becomes harder for many people to keep themselves comfortably warm, even in their own homes. A new area partnership aims to help eliminate that reality for Montgomery County families.
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is working with Manna Food Center – a Rockville-based organization dedicated to eliminating hunger in the county – to keep families warm this winter by distributing Home Comfort Kits to Manna participants.
These kits include indoor window insulating shrink film, safety plugs, switch and outlet gaskets—all aiming to reduce drafts in residents’ homes. Using these kits increases personal comfort and can lower energy bills by 20 percent or more.
According to Director of Programs, Jenna Umbriac, RD, Manna is comprised of a small group of passionate and committed employees and a large group of dedicated volunteers that strives to provide good food in welcoming places to the more than 70,000 county residents experiencing hunger and food insecurity.
“Every day we work toward our vision of a Montgomery County where all people at all times have access to safe, sufficient, nutritious food in order to lead fulfilling lives,” she said – a vision the organization achieves through food distribution, community food education, and advocacy. “The individuals and families that turn to Manna for food assistance are challenged by low incomes in an area with a very high cost of living.”
A study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy shows that the median low-income household’s energy burden was 7.2 percent – a number that is more than twice as high as the median energy burden of all households (3.5 percent), and more than three times as high as the 2.3 percent reported for higher income households. In other words, the less money a household earns, the greater the percentage of those earnings will be needed to pay for the household’s energy use.
But cost-effective ways of cutting heating costs are available, including home energy audits at no additional cost or a reduced fee.
“Resources like DEP’s Residential Energy Program can help families make limited dollars stretch farther so they have more money to spend on rent, childcare, medical bills, and other necessities,” Umbriac says.
DEP staff will be visiting all Manna distribution sites in Gaithersburg, Germantown, Wheaton, and Silver Spring through mid-December to distribute the Home Comfort Kits to Manna participants.
Montgomery County residents can qualify for Manna’s food assistance programs if they meet certain income requirements. For more information, call (301) 424-1130 during regular business hours to speak to with a referral representative. You can also donate to Manna directly.
By Kimberly Hodges and Felicia Hodges