Food insecure children who rely on free breakfast and lunch at school may view the weekend as a time when there’s not enough food to go around. Lynne B. Kahn, founder and executive director of Baltimore Hunger Project, has been pushing to ensure these children don’t go home hungry.
“We are a grassroots, volunteer-based organization that’s dedicated to eliminating weekend childhood hunger,” said Kahn, 52, a resident of Owings Mills.
Many of the children the project supports receive free breakfast and lunch at school during the weekdays, she explained. As there isn’t always enough food for these children when they are at home during the weekends, the project helps supplement whatever is available to the children.
“Studies show kids who don’t eat over the weekend, it takes them [until] Wednesday when they can focus on their studies,” Kahn said. “And so we hope to … empower the kids when they show up, ready to learn.”
Growing up in Baltimore, Kahn spent her summers at Camp Ramah in the Poconos. She had her bat mitzvah and married her husband, Howard, at Beth El Congregation of Baltimore, where she remains a member today. The couple will be celebrating their 25th anniversary in September. Her two children, Max, 22, and Emily, 20, also became b’nai mitzvah at Beth El, she said.
Kahn majored in religion and political science at University of Rochester and was a full-time CPA until May, when she switched to part time.
Kahn said she became interested in the issue of local child hunger 12 years ago, when she and a few friends started their unofficial group, Lynne’s Garage, as an opportunity to bring their friends and families together to do something positive for the general Baltimore community. On one Sunday a month for nine years, the group made lunches for a pair of women’s and children’s shelters. Kahn delivered the meals.
“When I would go, the kids would come running out and would ask me if I was the lunch lady,” Kahn said, adding that the children often took the lunches to school for that week. Their mothers told her the impact a bagged lunch can have, how it helped the children fit in with their classmates who do not live in shelters.
“And then I started thinking, ‘What happens on the weekends?’” Kahn said. “Everybody’s so focused on Monday through Friday, but nobody talks about that hunger gap from Friday afternoon to Monday mornings.”
In response, Kahn founded Baltimore Hunger Project in 2014, she said.
“I would say that this has really been a labor of love,” Kahn said.
The project relies on its many volunteers, Kahn said, adding she was grateful for the support it had received from the community. It “makes everything that we do that much more impactful and engaging and fun,” she said.
When the pandemic arrived, the project pivoted from weekend food packages to onsite distributions, Kahn said. During this period, every Friday for 68 weeks, the project supported nearly 1,500 families in six locations across Baltimore County, providing produce, fresh milk, eggs and bread, as well as diapers and laundry detergent.
“One of my proudest accomplishments is knowing the impact that we’re having in the community, one where we’ve created awareness that this problem exists, and that we are serving thousands of children every week,” Kahn said.
Kahn said her identity as a Jew has an impact on the work she does for the community.
“I think it impacts everything that I do,” she said. “I feel that Baltimore Hunger Project is my way of performing tikkun olam, right? Repairing the world.”