Montgomery County

Grocery Chain Gives Away Food Staples, Draws Massive Crowds

NBC Universal, Inc.

A local grocery chain popular with the D.C. area's Latino population announced a two-hour food giveaway of staples including rice and milk. More people than they could have imagined arrived needing assistance.

Megamart advertised the giveaway as a thank-you to its customers on local Spanish-language TV stations. When the day came, hundreds lined up around the parking lots and far down the streets at seven locations, including in Chillum, Rockville and Takoma Park in Maryland and Arlington, Virginia. 

Megamart initially gave out bags filled with cornmeal, rice, oil, salt, sugar and milk — survival provisions.

The long lines demonstrated the profound need throughout the community, as so many have lost their incomes. Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said the images reflect the reality of a community that is suffering.

“We all know that we have large immigrant populations here, for example, and do not qualify for unemployment,” Elrich said. “And if they’re jobless, they’re not working and bringing home a paycheck.”

Police and county health officials were dispatched to help maintain some level of order and social distancing. While most wore masks, the quantity of people made social distancing nearly impossible.

The Maryland stores began offering $30 vouchers after the crowds grew to unmanageable levels.  

Community members expressed their gratitude to Megamart, which said it plans to spend half a million dollars on the effort.

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