ROCKVILLE – Hoping to get the County’s food banks and charities on the same page, the Montgomery County Council passed a bill that would require the County Executive to develop a single plan to fight hunger in the County.
The bill calls for the County Executive to develop a five-year plan to reduce hunger by 10 percent each year, a goal that the bill’s lead sponsor Roger Berliner (D-1) previously said was to serve as a guideline.
Berliner said the bill’s aim is to coordinate efforts between the county’s agencies and charities to provide meals to the about 78,000 people in the County that do not know where their next meal is coming from.
The County Executive has until Dec. 1 to finalize his plan.
At the public hearing for the bill on June 14, leaders from the County’s food banks and charities that feed the hungry all spoke in favor of the bill saying that a strategic plan from the County was needed to consolidate all their efforts.
“Being able to have a shared commitment to creating this plan really consolidates our efforts and really brings people to the table in ways we may not have,” said Jackie DeCarlo, executive director for Manna Food Center.
While Montgomery County is one of the wealthiest counties in the United States, DeCarlo said the high cost of living in the County has put an economic strain on lower class families.
“The working poor, even post-recession, struggle to make ends meet,” DeCarlo said.
To create the plan, the bill will require the County Executive to consult with the county’s agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Agriculture and Montgomery County Public Schools to research demographic information on where to target the County’s resources.
At the public hearing, charity leaders said that there was a need for a strategic plan with demographic information that would allow the County’s non-profit organizations and the County government to coordinate their efforts to feed the hungry.
Andy Burness, chair of the Montgomery County Food Security Collaborative, recalled a story where he dropped off donated food at a women’s shelter only to find that the shelter’s kitchen was already stacked with food.
“Data is critical to tackling issues related to poverty, because if you don’t know who is hungry, it’s impossible to target the people with the greatest need,” said Burness at the June 14 hearing.
“These people are counting on us the County’s public and private sector to solve this problem,” Berliner said. “The strategic plan that we are calling for will be a document that we will be able to use in the years to come as a blueprint to help better guide our budget and our overall policy deliberations pertaining to hunger.”