Lynn Jackson is director of operations for Food Resources Inc. in Hagerstown.
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When Lynn Jackson was a boy growing up in Hagerstown in the 1960s, he didn't think twice about the source of his meals. He never considered that there were families in Hagerstown, even in his own neighborhood, that didn't have enough to eat.
Now, he knows better. He sees hungry people nearly every day.
"I grew up here in the West End," said Jackson. "It just never dawned on me that it was like this, that 2,000 families a month are in need of food. It's not something people talk about, like, 'I went to the food pantry today.'"
But now, Jackson, 50, knows there is a need. He is director of operations for Food Resources Inc., a regional nonprofit food warehouse serving food pantries, soup kitchens and other agencies addressing hunger in Washington County and the surrounding area.
"We have 500 families come here every month. Not to mention the 2,000 families we reach through food pantries," he said. "This year we will deliver close to 1.6 million pounds of food. Until you work in a business like this, you don't know what it's like out there."
Jackson initially had no plan to work in the community-service field. He got a computer degree from Hagerstown Junior College in 1990, when the computer industry was still fairly young. He landed a job at Washington County Hospital in the computer department. Eventually, he became operations analyst for the hospital.
But in 1995, an opportunity opened up for some paid part-time work in the warehouse at Food Resources Inc. In between weekends and nights at the hospital, Jackson worked at the warehouse. But when his manager at Food Resources had a health crisis and left, Jackson left the hospital. In 1997, he came on board full time with Food Resources Inc. as operations manager."I came here with no intentions of staying here," he said. "Then Brad Sell came on (as executive director for Food Resources) in 1997, and he grew this organization by leaps and bounds."
Jackson said Sell showed him what was important about the food warehouse.
"He brought a passion for the mission," Jackson said. "When Brad came on board, he let everybody know this mission was to serve this community."
Food Resources moved from a rented, 7,500-square-foot warehouse on Eldridge Drive near the Washington County Board of Education to its current location, a 12,000-square-foot warehouse built and owned by Food Resources on McRand Court in the West End. Jackson has been at Food Resources for 16 years. In that time, he's seen thousands of people affected by hunger, and in the past decade, the volume of food delivered to clients has increased.
"From the profoundly poor to the working poor. People who used to donate to us now need us," he said. "Sometimes, it comes down to where it's a choice of buying medicine or buying food, or buying heating oil or buying food."
To help people stretch their food dollars, Food Resources has several primary programs, Jackson said. One major program supplies nonperishables to food pantries, soup kitchens, day-care facilities and other agencies in Washington County. Another program is the Pantry on Wheels, which delivers food to about 240 seniors across the county.
A third program is the Membership Club. For $10 a month, qualifying members come to the Food Resources warehouse and gather produce, nonperishables, frozen meat, baked goods and other foods.
"The goal is to feed people, but to feed them healthy," Jackson said.
Making an operation like Food Resources work smoothly requires keeping tabs on dozens of incoming food streams — donations from area stores, collections from churches and area businesses, venison from hunters, eggs from farmers, USDA deliveries and food purchases to cover items missing from the menu.
Getting all that food into clients' hands is another complicated effort. Food Resources has only two full-time employees and one part-time employee. The rest of the manpower is provided by volunteers.
Jackson said he sees 10 volunteers a month during most of the year, but starting in October, he needs more.
"We see 60 a month in October through December," he said. "We start contacting people in September."
Keeping track of programs, donations, volunteers and staff is complicated.
"This place requires a ton of paperwork and a lot of communication with volunteers," Jackson said.
In his time with Food Resources, Jackson has learned how to manage the flow of crates of food and waves of volunteers. But he stays focused on the bigger picture: the mission.
"Food Resources is a nonprofit business. We have a $1,000-a-month electric bill for refrigeration. We have to pay employees. We get an annual audit," he said. "But my passion is getting food to people who need it."
Need help or want to help?
Those interested in volunteering or those needing help from Food Resources may call 301-733-4002.