2020 | Government

Council approves $10.3M to establish Food Security Fund

Another $2.6M in federal funds will help senior citizens get food

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The Montgomery County Council unanimously approved spending $10.3 million to establish Food Security Fund.

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A new food security fund will help Montgomery County nonprofits and residents get access to a steady supply of food.

The new Montgomery County Food Security Fund will establish a response strategy and help cover costs for tackling hunger in the county.

On Tuesday, the County Council unanimously approved spending $10.3 million to establish the fund.

Of that, $10 million would be used for starting the fund. The remaining $300,000 would go to the Greater Washington Community Foundation to initiate and manage the fund, as well as seek private donations.

The council initially considered seeding the fund with $500,000 but Council Member Will Jawando proposed an amendment to reduce the seed money to $300,000.

Jawando did not address why he proposed to reduce the amount, but said the need for a stable food supply is increasing because of the pandemic.

“There is a significant gap required to address our food security needs, and it’s getting worse, not better,” Jawando said. “It’s going to be a longstanding issue as we address immediate needs, but also the resiliency and infrastructure of our food system here in the county.”

An extra $41.6 million will be needed to combat food insecurity and cover resources for the next six months, according to the Montgomery County Food Council and other nonprofits.

The new fund is expected to increase the amount of food that can be provided, educate residents about available resources, improve distribution methods, and create an improved food system.

The money will also be used to purchase food and meals from local farmers and restaurants.

Council Member Gabe Albornoz said the fund will help the county respond to the need for “tens of millions of dollars over the next year or two to address the systemic needs of our residents.”

Three residents spoke in support of the fund during a public hearing on Tuesday.

Patricia Drumming of the Rainbow Community Development Center, which runs a community food pantry and provides assistance for eviction and homelessness prevention, said her nonprofit would like to see some of the funds be used to help small nonprofits build their infrastructure and capacity, such as with trucks, shelves, forklifts, refrigerators and other warehouse equipment.

“It is paramount not just to consider food needs, but rather, also consider the capacity to deliver the food. We need short-term and long-term investments to improve the capacity of food providers,” she said.

She added that better equipment would allow nonprofits to accept donations of meat or other cold products and reduce their workloads.

Mario Alvarado of the INCAEF Foundation, who testified with the help of Spanish translation, said the nonprofit received a $60,000 grant from the county. It helped to purchase culturally appropriate Latin American food and provide 800 families with a food supply to last eight days.

Alvarado said the foundation has more than 2,000 people on a waiting list who are desperate for food assistance. He asked the council to support the fund to help nonprofits feed communities.

Judith Clark, founder and CEO of Women Who Care Ministries, said her nonprofit has fed double the number of kids it normally does. On Friday, the nonprofit distributed weekend meals to more than 6,000 students, she said. The group, which primarily runs the weekend meal program for students, doesn’t have the funds to provide summer meals yet.

“It’s our hope that these funds will continue to support the many valuable nonprofits fighting for food security for our residents on a daily basis,” she said. “Hunger doesn’t take a vacation and neither will we.”

On Tuesday, the County Council also approved $2.6 million to support the county’s senior citizen nutrition program, which often provides the primary meal of the day for many seniors.

The funds for the program would come from two federal grants — the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.