The number of Maryland residents struggling with food security is nearly twice what it was pre-pandemic, and the Maryland Food Bank increased its food distribution by 88% to help keep them afloat, according to a new report.
The Maryland Food System Resiliency Council, which has tracked distribution efforts over the past three years or so, found that the coronavirus pandemic has exposed and exacerbated flaws in the state’s food system, resulting in more than 1 million residents experiencing food insecurity over the course of the health crisis.
“The pandemic laid bare the fragility of our local food system, in particular our reliance on non-local food sources, the millions of Marylanders at risk for hunger, and weakness in distribution and storage infrastructure,” said Heather Bruskin, co-chair of the council and executive director of the Montgomery County Food Council, Maryland Matters reported.
The Maryland General Assembly created the Maryland Food System Resiliency Council to develop policy recommendations and address food insecurity due to the pandemic. The law also requires the council to meet for two years and coordinate different food-insecurity services and create a map of food insecurity across Maryland.
The council’s report recommends spending $3 million to increase cold storage capacity across the state, giving Maryland school systems incentives to purchase locally grown food, and earmarking $10 million to establish a Food and Agriculture Resilience Mechanism program, which would provide funds for food assistance organizations to buy food directly from local farmers.
The report also recommends providing technical assistance to communities for establishing food waste sites, Maryland Matters reported.
Additionally, the report said the state needs to model the Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future map that not includes data for food insecurity in the state, but poverty and health data also.