Located just two miles from Oriole Park, The Food Project brings culinary, farming and restaurant skills, employment opportunities, sustainable food sources, mentorship and hope to the youth of southwestern Baltimore.
Jennifer Grondahl, Senior Vice President of Community Development and Communications, Orioles, said: “We were first introduced to The Food Project in 2019 and have worked with them ever since. We have been fortunate to recruit at-risk youth from their programs into our ballpark. , and we look forward to engaging more people to continue giving back to the Baltimore community.”
As part of the partnership, Orioles and CareFirst have committed funding to provide jobs within The Food Project. Jobs include Operations Managers, Kitchen Managers, Meal Delivery Workers and Seedy Nutty Granola Production Managers, directly impacting the people of Southwest Baltimore.
One of the individuals who has benefited from this partnership is Operations Manager Ashley Dingle. She is described as a powerhouse with a community heart.
Michelle Suazo, Executive Director of The Food Project, said: “Her pep talks with her children make them want to work for something bigger than just asking for a paycheck.”
Kitchen manager Tyshae Jennings is working towards her early daycare license, and The Food Project is helping her open a daycare in the building. This daycare can receive vouchers from young parents who need a job but cannot afford daycare.
Local rising rapper Tyree Johnson helps deliver meals. It is common for members of the community to recognize him while he is out delivering and start singing his poems about getting out of the neighborhood.
Johnson also helped launch “The Grind” pop-up shop and restaurant on The Food Project grounds. The pop-up shop and restaurant are named after Troy Rush, a young member of the Hood His Project, who was tragically shot dead in 2021.
Demonte Palmer is the production manager for Seedy Nutty Granola products. The Food Project seeks to expand the social enterprises that are created out of the kitchen to create more jobs. Eventually, The Food Project would like to work with local food banks to include Seedy Nutty Granola in their food boxes.
In addition to funding work, Orioles and CareFirst have made it a priority to give back to food projects in other ways, such as volunteering in the field.
Last Giving Tuesday, the Orioles held their winter clothes drive at Oriole Park. There, O’s employees and fans donated 195 of his winter clothes to food projects and distributed them to families in communities in southwest Baltimore.
The Orioles also held a Giving Tuesday online auction, where fans bid on signed items, in-game memorabilia and exclusive experiences. Over $5,000 was raised, with all proceeds going to The Food Project.
Noting the importance this program plays in the community, The Food Project became Orioles Team Charity in 2021, helping to raise awareness of the organization throughout the community. Throughout the 2022 season, 32 at-risk youth from The Food Project were employed at Oriole Park and more than 100 bags of Seedy Nutty Granola were sold at Birdland Market.
Both Orioles and CareFirst are committed to giving back to their communities and believe this partnership does it the best way. Over the next three years, they want to continue giving back and showing what The Food Project is doing for southwestern Baltimore.
“It’s so funny because people might drive through the neighborhood and see all the crumbling buildings and get scared, but it’s the people that are so beautiful,” Suazo said. I think the more people who know about it, the more they realize the value of helping.”