Meet Our Council Member: Bruce Baker

Each of our 25 Council Members hold important roles in the Montgomery County food system. These roles range from food assistance work, to running a composting business, to farming, and their work significantly impacts and improves the Montgomery County community. Bruce Baker, who became a Food Council member in January 2018, is the founder of Community Health and Empowerment through Education and Research (CHEER). CHEER works specifically in the Takoma Park/Long Branch area to address health disparities and increase equity for Takoma Park/Long Branch residents.

Prior to founding CHEER, Bruce was a federal government researcher with the Government Accountability Office. Mid-career, he became heavily engaged in his community and began serving on an advisory board for the City of Takoma Park. In this role, he and his colleagues in Takoma Park and Long Branch saw a need for research to learn more about their communities. They found that there were significant disparities in health outcomes and health care access between renters (mostly lower income immigrants and minorities), and home owners (mostly higher income residents). Bruce believed that a holistic, community-based approach that was data driven, people centered, and results oriented could lead to big community changes. Together with another budget professional, Andrew Kleine, they established CHEER in 2009 to facilitate this approach in Takoma Park.

Since its inception, CHEER has initiated and become involved in various programs and projects within the community. On a day-to-day basis, Bruce attends meetings with community health workers, community organizers, and organizations that focus on different aspects of health and well being for community residents. CHEER also plays an important research role, gathering information and analyzing and reporting on the findings. According to Bruce, “the research and data functions are essential to measuring and making community improvement.”

Bruce became involved with the Food Council in 2016, participating in data gathering for the creation of the Food Security Plan. CHEER conducted focus groups and surveyed community members on food security issues. The findings from this research contributed to the creation of the Long Branch Healthy Food Access Program, which uses a “Food is Medicine” approach, supplying 12 weeks worth of healthy food to food insecure people who have diabetes.

Bruce’s pie-in-the-sky dream for the Montgomery County community would be for healthy food to be accessible to everyone. To accomplish this dream, “every region of the County would have a community based organization that facilitates the production, recovery, and distribution of food. This system would offer opportunities for all community members to participate in all aspects of the food system, such as through community gardening, transporting and distributing surplus food, and preparation of foods at community or small gatherings where people can build personal relationships that inform, entertain, and enrich all who participate.”

We’re grateful and lucky to have Bruce as one of our Council Members and an active member of our Food Recovery and Access Working Group. Learn more about CHEER here!