The Food Recovery and Access working group supports the increased recovery of, equitable access to and advocacy for more healthful food for Montgomery County residents. We do this by working with the Food Council leadership to build capacity of food assistance organizations, amplify the work of Community Food Rescue, and integrate local and regional efforts into the work of community, non-profit, business and government stakeholders.
Working Group Initiatives
- Expand access to benefits programs through increased outreach, support and resource-sharing to those eligible residents who do not participate.
- Establish mechanisms for the sustainability of current subgroup foci and utilize new subgroups to further Food Security Plan recommendations, as appropriate.
- Continue to use data from food assistance providers, namely the FoodStat tool, to maximize impact of existing efforts/activities.
- Identify joint initiatives with EIWG, FEWG, FEdWG re: FSP recommendations that relate more to the scope of those work groups or address common priority areas.
- Additional priorities to be determined in consultation with new FRAWG-centered Council members.
Montgomery County Food Security Plan (FSP)- We are supporting the implementation of the County’s Food Security Plan by: increasing connectivity, collaboration and information sharing among food security providers; assisting with the standardization of Food Assistance Provider data collection; advising on the creation of County FoodStat (a database to track and annually report out food system data); and identifying high priority zones in the County. For a full update on the implementation of the Food Security Plan, please click here.
- Healthcare and Food Access: This subgroup brings together food assistance and healthcare providers to work on introducing effective screen & intervene processes at hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities.
- Nutrition Standards: This subgroup is working to develop training models and guidelines for food assistance providers, in order for them to implement initiatives at their sites to encourage healthy food choices.
- Culturally Appropriate Food Access: This subgroup has been assessing the extent of the need for culturally appropriate food options in Montgomery County, and working to increase access to culturally appropriate products in the food assistance network.
Food Assistance Resource Directory (FARD)- We created a comprehensive list of all current hunger relief resources and emergency food providers in Montgomery County. This directory – which serves as a valuable resource for individuals experiencing food insecurity, providers, and government agency staff – frames the current state of food insecurity in the County and highlights existing efforts and gaps in services provided. The FARD will continue to be added to and updated.
Food Security Community Advisory Board (FSCAB): The first Food Security Community Advisory Board meeting was held on February 5, 2019, involving various community members who have struggled with or currently struggle with food access. The FSCAB will continue to meet throughout the year to discuss food security issues in Montgomery County and provide insight to help the Food Council and existing food assistance programs better support food insecure residents.
Expand ‘Screen and Intervene’ by Healthcare Providers – Toward our efforts of engaging the health care sector in advancing food security, we’ve convened a group of representatives from the major providers to discuss the current state of screening for food insecurity and the subsequent referrals to food assistance providers and health promotion services. We are creating a survey to inventory existing “screen and intervene”- style programs, like Food is Medicine, and we will facilitate regular meetings with this group to share best practices and develop ways to increase screening.
Food Is Medicine – We are collaborating on The Food is Medicine program with the Primary Care Coalition, CHEER, Manna Food Center, Mobile Med Inc., Mercy Health Clinic, and many other organizations to integrate food assistance and nutrition education into Montgomery County’s safety-net health care programs by establishing infrastructure and support to provide routine food insecurity screening, generate referrals to community partners, and conduct needed follow-up and support.
Expanding Food Recovery -FRAWG supports the Food Security Plan’s recommendations of expanding food recovery by getting more local producers on board to share products with Montgomery County residents. We work closely with Community Food Rescue (CFR), a collaborative system in Montgomery County that rescues leftover food and redirects it to residents in need before it is sent to landfills and incinerators. Food that is unfit for humans is sent to farmers for animal feed or to a composting facility.
Strengthening SNAP – We are examining ways to increase the number of SNAP/WIC approved retailers, to improve ability for eligible households to receive and maintain benefits, and to work with Maryland Hunger Solutions to support the SNAP program in Montgomery County. In May 2018, we recorded a training webinar with DHHS’ Neighborhood Opportunity Network providers and Maryland Hunger Solutions to support food assistance organizations in providing SNAP outreach and application assistance. We’ve also organized multiple trainings for volunteers to conduct SNAP outreach to help eligible seniors apply for SNAP benefits.
The MoCo Food Access Report – Prior to the creation and release of the Food Security Plan, the FRAWG conducted research on areas of low food access in the County, developed a Healthy Food Access Inventory Survey, and conducted Healthy Food Availability Index (HFAI) assessments at food retail establishments serving communities of low food access. The resulting report, detailing our mapping, focus group, and survey efforts, was published in Fall 2015.