Several local businesses are teaming up to raise $500,000 over the next four years to fight hunger in Montgomery County.
The group is called Business Leaders Fighting Hunger and includes the French food services company Sodexo, which operates a Gaithersburg facility, and the Bethesda communications firm Burness.
The group launched its efforts Friday at an event in Rockville. The businesses plan to contribute the money to The Community Foundation of Montgomery County as a way to help the county meet the goals of its 2016 Food Security Plan.
“Many of the plan’s recommendations remain underfunded, and limited grant funds leave little room for pilot programs that have potential to make an impact,” Shondra Jenkins, co-founder of Business Leaders Fighting Hunger and executive director of Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation, said in a statement. “Hunger is a problem too big for one organization to solve alone. Business Leaders Fighting Hunger will help close this funding by infusing much needed new dollars into Montgomery County’s neediest communities.”
The group plans to support the expansion of the “Food is Medicine” program in its first year. The program provides fresh fruits and vegetables to diabetic patients who are unable to access healthy foods. They also receive support from community health workers who guide them on how to eat a more healthy diet.
Uma Ahluwalia, director of the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement that there are about 65,000 people in the county who struggle to feed themselves or their families each day.
“Government alone can’t solve hunger in our county,” Ahluwalia said. “We need the business community to be our partner.”
Andy Burness, president of Burness, said the fundraising effort is designed “to support collaborative initiatives that would bring groups together to come up with innovative solutions to deal with food insecurity.” He added that about 120 people attended the kickoff event.
He said the fundraising campaign differs from an effort Burness launched in 2014 to try to raise $2 million over three years to significantly reduce hunger in the county. He said the group of businesses involved in that effort were more focused on bringing organizations together that were working independently on hunger issues. He said some of the energy from that initial effort led to the creation of the county’s Food Security Plan.
Other initial members of the business group include Bethesda Magazine, Bendler & Company, Bass Accounting & Tax Services, Social & Scientific Systems and SmithPilot.