Officials are moving forward with a plan to reduce hunger in Montgomery County.
On Thursday morning, county officials joined community members, nonprofit leaders and volunteers at the Red Brick Courthouse in Rockville at the kick-off event for the five-year strategic plan to fight hunger in the county.
The 122-page plan created by the Montgomery Food Council, community members and others over the past four months aims to evaluate data and then provide solutions to help those struggling to find their next meal.
“We want every organization that works in food security to be able to find stuff relevant to their work and be able to use it,” said Dan Hoffman, the county’s chief innovation officer who oversaw the creation of the plan.
Hoffman said there are about 140 programs in the county that work to reduce hunger, but most are small programs run by churches or food pantries that don’t have the means or resources to gather the data needed to address the issue countywide.
He said the nonprofit food bank network Feeding America estimates that about 70,000 residents including 33,000 children in Montgomery County are “food insecure” or struggle to feed themselves or their families. But he noted that figure is derived from broad population data and is based on the number of seniors and recent immigrants living in the county. The county plan calls for analyzing this data to obtain more reliable statistics for gauging hunger in the county so officials can address specific needs.
Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett said community organizations have done a good job providing support to the county’s most vulnerable and hungry residents, but the county is now looking to use technology to address the issue comprehensively.
“This plan will put all our challenges into one simple, straightforward document,” Leggett said. “This is a plan that will not grow dust. This is a plan that we’ll properly fund. This is a plan that we’ll support.”
The plan was the result of legislation approved last year by the County Council that mandated the county executive create a plan to tackle food insecurity and update it annually.
“This was a call to action that was met,” County Council President Roger Berliner said. “We are going to make progress if we implement this plan.”
Berliner said his goal in the next year will be to address the short-term recommendations laid out in the document.
Those include expanding data collection, developing training programs for existing food providers and expanding access to current programs that provide hunger assistance to children and seniors in the county.