Reps. Raskin, McGovern Seek Ways to Provide Nutritious Food to All

“Food is a right for everybody,” declared U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-8) as he toured two Montgomery County organizations working to bring healthy, nutritious food to the needy and then participated in a food system resiliency roundtable Monday.

Raskin and U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts started the morning at Manna Food Center in Silver Spring before heading to an aeroponic indoor community garden on the campus of Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park. Members of Clifton Park Baptist Church in Silver Spring manage the garden with funding provided by the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services.

The church repurposed a former medical office on the hospital campus in July, growing towers of lettuce, kale, green onions, chard, basil, spinach, and other greens that need 90% less water than if grown on an outdoor farm. No pesticides are used.

Food is harvested weekly for distribution within the county.

While the need for food among church members and the surrounding neighborhood was great before the pandemic, it only has swelled since. The church serves between 1,400 and 1,700 families every week with food from the aeroponic garden as well as other groceries and diapers weekly, said Randi Drewry, Outreach Coordinator for the church.

Realizing the need keeps growing, Drewry said she read up on aeroponic growing towers. Twenty-four towers now fill one room at Washington Adventist. More towers are located at their church and plans include putting individual growing towers in private homes. “They are low maintenance,” she said.

McGovern and Raskin, both members of the Rules Committee, hope to model this program and others throughout the country to bring healthy food to the needy at reduced costs. Their goal is to convince Pres. Joe Biden to convene a hunger and nutrition awareness convention that would enable other nonprofits to get involved without having to reinvent the wheel each time.

“Food is health. Food is medicine,” McGovern said. “This should be replicated throughout the country.” Nutrition and nutritional education are important, he stressed. “We train our doctors in everything but nutrition.”

Raskin called the community garden “a model collaboration” between Washington Adventist, Clifton Park Baptist Church, and Montgomery County. “The crisis of Covid-19 has yielded a lot of grassroots groups,” he said, adding, “This is the future.”

He urged similar groups to include children and schools in their solutions, noting, “Kids think food grows in grocery stores and the mall.”

Impact Silver Spring partners with the church and expects that 10 families will soon have their own tabletop aeroponics towers.

Noted McGovern, “Food ought to be a fundamental human right for everybody. This is respect and dignity for the community.”




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