County Leaders Unveil Plan to End Childhood Hunger

From the Office of Councilmember Gabe Albornoz: Montgomery County Councilmember Gabe Albornoz and Montgomery County Food Council leaders were joined by County Executive Marc Elrich, Dr. Monifa McKnight, the Office of Food Systems Resilience, the Montgomery County Food Council, and community partners today to unveil the recommendations developed from the Montgomery County Strategic Plan to End Childhood Hunger. 

The Montgomery County Strategic Plan to End Childhood Hunger was spearheaded by Councilmember Gabe Albornoz, Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services in 2022 to combat rising rates of childhood food insecurity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. At least 14 percent of children in Montgomery County are food insecure, and far more live in households without sufficient income to meet basic needs. 

The strategic plan harnessed the expertise of community members and organizations to identify food access barriers and strategies to reduce food insecurity across all childhood age groups. The Montgomery County Food Council has served as the project manager for the initiative.

“Childhood hunger reaches into the homes of families across our county with at least 34,000 children experiencing food insecurity. While the pandemic both revealed and exacerbated food insecurity in our communities, it also laid a proven foundation that we can use towards a more sustainable, more collaborative, more effective system to reduce food insecurity among our children,” Councilmember Albornoz said. “We have the tools, the people and the motivation to end childhood hunger so that our next generation can truly thrive.” 

“The plan’s recommendations were developed through the expertise of more than 140 community nonprofit and government leaders and the insight of over 1,000 County residents,” said County Executive Elrich. “This process ensured that the strategies are immediately actionable to build on existing successful partnerships and programs, while also pursuing innovative approaches to address the systemic barriers to food access in our community. We are providing a roadmap for addressing inequities by strategically leveraging local resources to maximize federal and state funding while also filling service gaps. By creating strategic partnerships with community organizations that reflect the geographic and demographic diversity, our County will be able to serve residents in trusted spaces and connect them effectively and efficiently to a wide range of available resources.” 

“Hunger takes a profound toll on children’s health, happiness and the ability to build successful futures and break the cycle of poverty,” Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Dr. McKnight said. “At MCPS, we are committed to student success, which starts with every student being ready to learn, and supported in reaching their true potential to be college, career or community ready. We all are in this together.” 

The Montgomery County Food Council, a nonprofit organization serves as the primary local convenor around food system issues, has served as the project manager for this initiative. By building upon lessons learned by the County’s Food Security Task Force throughout the pandemic, the Food Council engaged the expertise of residents and community partners to identify food access barriers and strategies to reduce food insecurity across all childhood age groups. The plan identified 14 recommendations, organized into three groups based on how they address childhood food insecurity – with direct financial benefits to purchase food; with food provided at school, pre-school or daycare; and with novel approaches.

“As federal anti-hunger resources are waning, our public investments must have broader and deeper impacts to reinvest funds in our local economy and increase dignified food access for residents,” said Heather Bruskin, director of the Office of Food Systems Resilience. “Implementing programs that strengthen ties between local food producers and food assistance providers, such as those outlined in the strategic plan, will fight hunger while also building long term resilience and self-sufficiency in preparation for future crises and climate impacts on our food system.” 

“We were honored to have the opportunity to develop this plan in partnership with the County Council, County government, MCPS and key community stakeholders,” said Massa Cressall, interim executive director of the Montgomery County Food Council. “Coordinating and facilitating conversations around our local food system is our strength, and we collaborated with over 150 partners on this plan. Eliminating childhood hunger in our community will take all stakeholders, and we look forward to continuing to work toward the plan’s implementation.”

Speakers discussed the need to have robust policies, programs and funding in place so that Montgomery County children and their families have the food they need to thrive. 

The full plan can be viewed here.

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