Anne Arundel County Executive Establishes New Food Council
County Executive Steuart Pittman to sign Executive Order No. 60 to establish the Anne Arundel County Food Council
The signing ceremony took place at the Anne Arundel County Food Bank on May 3, 2023, at 9:15 a.m. at 120 Marbury Drive, Crownsville, MD.
In March 2020, in response to the start of the pandemic, an Anne Arundel County food access workgroup was established to enhance coordination among multiple agencies and nonprofits to reduce food insecurity and ensure residents did not have to choose between eating and paying their bills. Building on this work, the County Executive has determined that there is an urgent need to establish a permanent, coordinated, multi-disciplinary effort to address food access issues and the associated health issues in Anne Arundel County.
The Food Council will be responsible for addressing inequity in the food system, creating an inclusive mechanism to launch and coordinate food policies and programs, reducing food insecurity in Anne Arundel County, and improving equitable access to nutritious food, with a focus on supporting the local food economy and food infrastructure of low access areas. It will advise the County Executive, County Departments, and Agencies on methods to improve equitable access to healthy and culturally appropriate food for all County residents.
“The food distribution system we created during the pandemic kept many families from going hungry, but the need today is even greater,” says County Executive Pittman. “The Food Council will build on our work to reduce food insecurity and ensure that our residents have access to the food and resources they need long after the federal funds we used to start these programs have ended.”
Costs for food and other household necessities have increased dramatically over the last year. The result has been an increased need for supplemental food resources across the community. The Anne Arundel County Food Bank with its 80 Member Agency partners located throughout the County is experiencing a steady rise in requests for assistance. Currently, the Food Bank is averaging 41,000 individual points of service every month compared to 38,000 a month last year. While the need continues to grow, available funding is shrinking. With the discontinuation of Covid-era federal funds provided through the American Rescue Plan Act, the ability to provide enough free food resources to meet the need is in jeopardy.
“The need for supplemental food in communities across the County is significant. The high cost of food and housing, coupled with the need for improved public transportation places a heavy burden on our neighbors as they try to feed their families,” says Leah Paley, CEO of the Anne Arundel County Food Bank. “Consistent access to nutritious, fresh food options is a matter of equity and food justice. We are grateful to the County Executive and all our partners working on these issues. The Food Council brings together many stakeholders and creates an opportunity for real, positive change for Anne Arundel County.”
The Food Council will focus special attention on those Anne Arundel County neighborhoods experiencing the most poverty and food insecurity, many of which are disproportionately African American and Hispanic/Latino. Of particular concern are the associated negative health outcomes related to disparities in food access such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, asthma, and obesity brought about because families in low-income communities often only have access to low-cost foods that are high in calories and sodium while also less nutrient dense. This complex and longstanding problem has affected households in our community for generations. It will take expertise and collaboration from a variety of arenas to address these challenges. Pam Brown, Executive Director of the Anne Arundel County Partnership for Children, Youth, and Families, states, “The Food Council builds on the extraordinary collaboration that evolved during the pandemic among residents, county government, businesses, the faith community, and our County Food Bank. It creates a mechanism to continue the fight against food insecurity in our County and provide healthier outcomes for all.”
The County Executive will appoint the voting members to the Food Council including representatives from each of following: Anne Arundel County Food Bank; Anne Arundel County Public Schools’ Food & Nutrition Services Program; a member of the Agriculture Commission or an Anne Arundel County Farmer; Arundel Community Development Services; Anne Arundel County Early Childhood Coalition; two nonprofit organizations that actively provide food or other support in the community related to the work of the Food Council; four residents who experience(d) food insecurity, one from each Community of Hope; a local hospital; a grocery store, food retailer, restaurant, or related association with an active food donation program; a faith-based representative that actively provides food or other support in the community related to the work of the Food Council; one member of the House of Delegates representing Anne Arundel County; one member of the State Senate representing Anne Arundel County; and a representative from the State Department of Agriculture.
Additionally, the following County Department directors will serve in an ex officio, non-voting capacity: Department of Aging and Disabilities; Office of Emergency Management; Department of Health; Department of Social Services; Partnership for Children, Youth, and Families; Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; and Maryland Food Bank.