Thank you to our partners and supporters for their continued contributions to our work. Read on for more information about our achievements in February 2021!
Community Engagement and Network Building:
During the month of February, the Food Council hosted 15 meetings attended by nearly 300 community members, including three working group meetings, two Food Security Community Calls, advocacy discussions with local elected officials, a communications strategy workshop, and a ServSafe Training for Food Assistance Providers. In total, the Food Council participated in over 66 community engagements this February, connecting with over 800 local residents, businesses, nonprofits, and government leaders.
- In celebration of Black History Month, the Food Council highlighted Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)- and minority-owned MoCo Made businesses that are growing and producing food and beverage products right here in our community, with the release of the new “Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)-Owned MoCo Made Business Guide.” This guide included local farms, sweet treats, and unique pantry staples. Check out our blog to learn more about each business, and how you can support them by eating, drinking, and buying local food!
- On Thursday, February 4th, the Food Council hosted Raise Your Voice: A Communications, Advocacy Skills, and Social media Strategies Workshop. We highlighted key strategies to engage in advocacy on social media platforms and other communications channels. Participants learned strategies to create engaging content, including ways to creatively use hashtags, re-sharing, and posting to increase the visibility of their social media posts across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more. This training also included information about key ingredients for a strong, effective advocacy campaign, and showcased examples from advocacy organizations working on food policy issues throughout the state of Maryland. For those who could not attend, please view the recording and learn more about this topic here.
- The Food Council also launched a short, 8-question COVID-19 Community Food Access Survey in English, Spanish, Amharic, French, and Mandarin to collect input from residents that will guide the County’s food distribution plans in 2021. Residents’ feedback on how the County can best serve our communities and improve food access during and after the COVID-19 pandemic is essential to informing program implementation, policy development, and future funding priorities. The deadline for survey responses is Wednesday, March 17th, 2021.
- Please help us spread the word about this survey! A communications toolkit can be found here, including suggested social media posts and outreach language in English and Spanish, to use when sharing the survey with your networks.
- The Food Council and the Office of Agriculture partnered to present a Virtual CSA Fair throughout National CSA Week, 2/22-2/28, culminating in a “Virtual CSA Lunch & Learn Event” on 2/26. This initiative included various social media posts highlighting five local farm and CSA partners and a blog post, and the Lunch & Learn event attracted nearly 30 community members interested in joining a local CSA program.
- Our communications team shared over 130 social media posts (on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) related to food assistance resources and distribution events, and our website received over 5,000 visits to pages pertaining to food security resources.
- In an effort to continue building the capacity of local food system partners, we shared information about various grant opportunities for food assistance providers, businesses, and farms, as well as job openings that are available at several of our partner organizations.
Food Security Highlights:
- The Food Recovery and Access Working Group continues to meet on a biweekly basis, during our Food Security Community Calls.
- The Food Security Community Call on 2/8 featured information on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), as well as a discussion on the “Heat and Eat Bill,” with special speakers from Maryland Hunger Solutions.
- The Food Security Community Call on 2/22 focused on food policy issues at State and Federal levels of government, and opportunities to be involved in state advocacy efforts to support HB981/SB0767 , the Hunger Free Campus Grant Program. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) shared remarks on recent federal nutrition policy, and upcoming legislation proposed by the Biden Administration to address food security in the United States. During the month of February, approximately 250 total participants joined our Food Security Calls.
- Those interested in joining the Food Security Community Calls can register in advance here.
- Food Council partnered with the Capital Area Food Bank to provide a “ServSafe Food Handler for Food Banking” virtual training. This course was attended by 15 individuals who work at food assistance organizations. Participants learned safe practices for cooking, packaging, packing, delivering, distributing and discarding all types of foods. The training covered food safety issues specific to food assistance providers including personal hygiene, receiving and storing food safely; evaluating, repacking, and transporting food safely; and cleaning and sanitizing.
Working Group and Committee Meeting Highlights:
Over 290 community partners joined us for our working group meetings this month.
- The Environmental Impact Working Group meeting on 2/9 was attended by 23 community stakeholders, and launched the “Food Waste Reduction and Composting Education” series, starting with a discussion regarding the baseline for food waste reduction opportunities in Montgomery County, the programs and initiatives that are already in place, and centering racial equity and social justice in these efforts.
- Those interested in joining the next Environmental Impact Working Group meeting on 4/6 can sign up to receive information here.
- The Food Economy Working Group meeting on 2/24 was attended by 24 community stakeholders. Debbie Moser, Owner and Co-Founder of Central Farm Markets, and Doug Weisburger, Senior Planning Specialist at DEP, discussed opportunities for MoCo Made businesses to participate in a rotating MoCo Made pop-up at the Bethesda Central Farm Market during the summer season, successful strategies for farmers markets to implement delivery and curbside pickup options for customers, and the Montgomery County Green Business Certification Program.
- Those interested in joining the next Food Economy Working Group meeting on 3/17 can sign up to receive information here.
- The February FEdWG meeting was held on Tuesday, February 23rd. During the meeting, attendees discussed the actions that can be taken to elevate community voices and perspectives, in both conversations and program planning related to food education and community/urban gardening. The genesis of this discussion came out of action items from the Racial Equity Strategic Plan created by the Racial Equity Committee of the Food Council, one of which was to examine the work our Working Groups lead under a racial equity lens. This discussion was led by Tessa Mork, Director of Food and Nutrition Programs at the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington, and also a member of the Policy and Racial Equity Committees. The discussion will continue at the March FEdWG meeting, with a focus on strategies to expand culturally appropriate food availability. The February meeting also featured a presentation by Christine Taylor, a now retired nutritionist from the FDA and a new Council Member, on the history of the Nutrition Facts Panel from its creation in 1990 to today. 30 attendees joined the meeting.
- Those interested in joining the next Food Education Working Group meeting on 3/23 can sign up for updates on this Working Group here.
- The Gardening Subcommittee meeting occurred on Thursday, February 25th. During the meeting, Sara Servin, Farmers Market Program Manager at Crossroads Community Food Network, presented about the history and operations of the Crossroads Farmers Market at the Takoma Langley Crossroads, including information about the start and end date of the market, the types of payments accepted at the market, and the advantages of buying directly from farmers at farmers markets. There was also a discussion and Q&A led by Genevieve Fulco, farmer at Somerset Produce and Bird House Farm about gardening best practices, recommended gardening literature to read for beginner gardeners, where gardeners can get their soil tests done, and other gardening resources to help beginner gardeners. 21 attendees joined the meeting.
- The Benefits Outreach and Enrollment Workgroup meets monthly to convene conversations among organizations that work on outreach and/or enrollment, in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The 2/19 meeting was attended by 10 individuals, along with members from the Montgomery County Office of Eligibility and Support Services (OESS), to provide updates on the County benefits outreach and enrollment program and answer questions regarding challenges/barriers organizations are currently facing.
Policy and Advocacy Highlights:
- The Racial Equity Committee met on February 24th to discuss the connection between the Food Council’s Logic Model and the Strategic Planning process, focusing on subjects within the Logic Model such as strategies to address the underlying structural issues and long-term systemic inequities in the food system. The group also revisited the “Systematic Levers of Equity” activity that was introduced during the Food Council Annual Retreat, discussing the individual, structural, cultural, and transformative lenses that must be applied when developing and implementing equitable strategies to foster a just food system. The Committee spent time revising and discussing the Language and Style Guide that has been developed as a tool to address microaggressions and promote inclusive communications strategies.
- The Policy Committee met on February 24th to discuss updates related to the Maryland Legislative Session, including the outreach that the Food Council led to organize a panel of speakers testifying in favor of HB831/SB723, the “Maryland Food System Resiliency Council” bill. The Committee also discussed the passage of ZTA 20-01 at the County level, which was adopted with two amendments aligned with the Food Council’s recommendations. The Committee reviewed and finalized the recommendations developed by the Environmental Impact Working Group related to the County’s draft Climate Action Plan, and shared potential strategies to better integrate policy and advocacy opportunities into the Working Group meetings and discussions.
- The Food Council’s Policy Committee has continued to support the Higher Education-Hunger Free Campus Grant Program (HB891/SB767), and continues to play an active role in the Maryland Legislative Session. We invite our partners to advocate for food system-related bills as well. Visit our Policy Tracking document for more information, and sign up to join our Advocacy Listserv for regular updates.
- The Licensing Subcommittee reconvened on 2/26 to revisit the Licensing and Regulatory Recommendations that the Food Council released in November, 2019, related to reducing financial and logistical barriers for for-profit food businesses and nonprofit organizations providing samples or conducting demonstrations as a component of food education programming. The Subcommittee plans to share the revised recommendations with the Department of Health and Human Services in March.
Thanks to all of our partners for continuing to support our efforts! Check back next month for another update. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.