Office Created to End Childhood Hunger, Reduce Food Insecurity

One in 10 Montgomery County residents are food insecure and don’t always know how they will get their next meal.

“So many of our residents are one paycheck or one illness or one other crisis away from being in a crisis themselves,” said Council President Gabe Albornoz Thursday during a press conference on food security. About 40,000 children in Montgomery County “are not sure where their next meal to going to come from,” he said.

The county, together with numerous non-profits and faith-based organizations, have been providing meals during the pandemic. Often, these food lines were several blocks long, Albornoz noted.

But federal funding is drying up, schools that offer free meals are not in session and inflation is rapidly raising the price of food, leaving those involved in fighting hunger to step up. Therefore, the county is establishing an Office of Food Systems Resilience that would operate under the Executive branch and would be responsible for coordinating much of the work.

Dr. Earl Stoddard, assistant chief administrative officer, explained, providing food “is not the end of the story.”

The goal is to move from providing meals to offering food pantries where families shop for ingredients to create their own meals. The new office also will tackle social issues to hopefully stop a family before it becomes food insecure.

In Montgomery County Public Schools, 43 percent of elementary school students participate in the free and reduced meal program, 40% of middle school students participate and 33.5% of high school students use the program.

The county has spent $36 million since June 2020 to help end food insecurity and already has budgeted another $4 million for Fiscal Year 2023.

“We know the need is here. We cannot go backward. We are going to end childhood hunger in Montgomery County,” said Councilmember Will Jawando.

Vanessa Pierre, a mother of three, said her family “always teetered on the line” between being able to pay for food and barely making it, she said. Somedays, she would skip meals so she would have enough for her children. Other times, she purchased chips rather than healthy snacks as they filled her children up longer, she said.

The county has helped her, and she gives back as a an advisory board member for the Montgomery County Food Council, she explained.

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