Fort Meade: USO's Supermarket Sweeps to implement changes

Update: Maryland’s “shelter in place” policy issued on March 30th resulted in USO-Metro suspending all live programming until further notice. Fort Meade has pivoted and is providing family virtual programming for active duty military members and their dependents via its Facebook page.

For the last seven years, the Fort Meade USO has teamed with the Maryland Food Bank to facilitate Supermarket Sweeps.

The bimonthly program provides four to five tons of fresh produce and non-perishable goods to Fort Meade service members and their families.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Supermarket Sweeps will not stop — despite the closure on March 16 of the Fort Meade USO Center, located at 8612 6th Armored Cavalry Road.

“With the direction of USO Metro leadership and garrison recommendations, we decided that the Fort Meade USO Center lounge was going to close until further notice,” said Brittany Freshwater, Fort Meade USO Center supervisor. “Though the lounge has closed, we knew we wanted to still offer as many programs that we could to our community during this time.

“I made the decision with advice from my leadership and team that if the food bank still had the food to donate, we were still going to put on this program.”

‘Drive and Go’ Social distancing will be a top priority for continuing Supermarket Sweeps, which will be offered at 77 Rock Ave. on the first and third Thursday of every month. The program began Thursday. To facilitate social distancing, the USO is adopting a “drive and go” format, Freshwater said. Families will pull into the parking lot at the facility and volunteers will load the groceries into the vehicles. Hours for Supermarket Sweeps are typically 10 a.m. to noon. The first hour is reserved for enlisted active-duty service members and their dependent spouses. The second hour is open to all ranks and dependent spouses.

The number of participating families per month can vary but is typically steady. Freshwater said that during one month, they serve around 350 to 500 families.

Staffed By Volunteers Supermarket Sweeps are typically staffed by 12 volunteers, plus USO staff.

“We are doing all that we can to assist our community while still keeping our volunteers safe,” Freshwater said. “We are heeding the warnings and concerns and adapting our programs to ensure that we are being as safe as we can be. “We just hope that the community can be patient with us as we make and enforce these changes.” Freshwater praised the efforts of the volunteers and their commitment to the community.

“We cannot thank our volunteers enough,” she said. “It is their dedication and passion for our service members and the Fort Meade community that even makes it possible for us to still be able to offer modified programs.”

Editor’s note: For more information about Supermarket Sweeps, email Brittany Freshwater at bfreshwater@usometro.org.

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