Community Engagement and Network Building
During the month of October, the Food Council hosted 27 meetings, including three working group meetings, two biweekly COVID-19 Community Calls, a presentation from No Kid Hungry, four Virtual Food Security training sessions, advocacy discussions with over a dozen local elected officials, and over a dozen meetings for the County’s Food Security Task Force.
The Food Council guest presented at 10 meetings, including the University of Maryland Environmental Justice Symposium, a Panel Discussion hosted by Montgomery Coalition for Adult English Literacy, a Composting Roundtable hosted by the Department of Environmental Protection, the Virtual Maryland and Virginia Agricultural Development Officers Conference, the Montgomery County Council Youth Virtual Town Hall, and the Food for Montgomery Weekly Briefing with the Greater Washington Community Foundation. Our efforts connected us with partners throughout the DMV region, including the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Mid-Atlantic Food Resilience and Access Coalition, and the Prince George’s Food Security Task Force. In total, the Food Council participated in over 75 community engagements this October, connecting with over 1,500 local residents, businesses, nonprofits, and government leaders. Read on for more information!
Food Security Highlights:
- On October 2nd, the Food Council collaborated with our partners at DHHS and the Mid-County Regional Service Center to host a services coordination meeting with three Service Consolidation Hubs in Mid-County, and with partners working in the same communities. The goal of this meeting was to facilitate information sharing and networking among providers working in overlapping services areas, and to facilitate clear communication about where, when and how the Hubs in this area are working to facilitate potential partnerships. The Hubs at Bethel World Outreach Ministries, Hughes United Methodist Church, and Oak Chapel United Methodist Church all joined for the conversation, and met with 18 other organizations who attended the meeting. Attendees exchanged ideas, discussed challenges, and shared contact information in an effort to connect more directly with each other, moving forward.
- On October 5th, the Food Council hosted a special presentation by Tam Lynne Kelly, Senior Manager and Licensed Master Social Worker, No Kid Hungry, an initiative of Share Our Strength, and Nikardi Jallah, an Epidemiologist for the Maryland Department of Health. The presentation showcased results from a survey and data analysis project conducted to measure food insecurity rates among middle and high school students in Maryland, through the Maryland Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
- Virtual Food Security Training: The Food Council hosted a series of virtual trainings presented by local experts to share information, best practices, tips and resources with local organizations leading the COVID-19 food security response. 63 total attendees participated in sessions on Food Assistance Resources in Montgomery County (Español), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) 101 (English & Español), and Safe Operation of Emergency Food Distributions. Please visit our website for access to the recorded sessions and to register for the November 19th training on Culturally Competent Community Engagement and Outreach.
- Maryland Community Action Partnership Conference: Food Council staff members Susan Kornacki and Allie Sklarew led a conference presentation for statewide community advocates on Friday, October 30th, describing the COVID-19 Food System Response Strategy in Montgomery County, including strategies our county is utilizing to enact transformative social change, through innovative and collaborative planning, and crisis response.
Working Group and Committee Meeting Highlights:
- The Food Economy Working Group held a virtual “MoCo Made Oktoberfest” on October 21st, that showcased the diverse beverage businesses headquartered in Montgomery County. American Shochu Company, Butterfly Spirits, Denizens Brewing Co., Santa Lucia Coffee, and the Urban Winery were featured during the meeting, as well as local delivery service “The Beer Fairiez.”
- The Food Education Working Group meeting on October 27th focused on making new connections between partners and organizations in Montgomery County, brainstorming about creating a speaker series related to FEdWG initiatives, and an interactive demonstration by Wendy Nevett Bazil, Culinary Instructor, about food waste avoidance in the kitchen, proper kitchen/grocery management, and other useful tips to streamline food usage.
- Our Gardening and SNAP Outreach and Enrollment subcommittees both convened dozens of partners to create communities of practice that support local nonprofits and advocates in their work connecting residents to critical benefits and food access opportunities.
Policy and Advocacy Highlights:
- The Food Security Community Advisory Board (FSCAB) met on October 15th and discussed reflections from previous meetings in 2020, recent policy updates, and plans for launching the third cohort of the Board in 2021.
- Council and Board Members and staff met with Congressman David Trone’s office on Friday, October 9th, to discuss federal policy priorities related to food security, child nutrition, and COVID relief.
- Our Policy Committee virtually hosted a virtual gathering of 10 state legislators from the Montgomery County Delegation and their representatives on October 20th to discuss shared food system policy priorities for the 2021 Maryland Legislative Session.
- The Racial Equity Committee met on October 9th, to discuss the goals of the Committee and to begin reviewing and revising the draft Racial Equity Action Plan. Through these discussions, it was determined that this will be a standing committee that will continue to convene beyond the initial establishment of an Action Plan, to ensure that the Food Council continues to acknowledge and address inequities in our local food system.
Grant Process Leadership:
- The Food Council led the grants process for the Farm to Food Bank Capacity Building Grant Program, which recently awarded $236,804 in funding to 22 Montgomery County-based food producing farms to improve their infrastructure and expand their capacity to contribute local food to the Montgomery County Farm to Food Bank program in 2021. Learn more here.
- The Food Council launched a Resident and Community Food Production Gardening Grant Program with the support of the Montgomery County Food Security Task Force and Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, which will award $160,000 in grants to Montgomery County based organizations that increase resident access to yard, patio, and community gardening supplies, space, and education.
Thanks to all of our partners for continuing to support our efforts! Check back next month for another update.