Barbara Johnson recalled when she walked outside of a laundromat last year where a member of Union Bethel AME Church greeted her with an invitation to take free food home.
Johnson said the church providing food “helps me out a whole lot being on Social Security” and receiving $27 a month in food stamps.
The church provided the widow of two adult sons two days of meals on Saturday, including fruit, vegetables, bread, ground beef and pork chops.
“I’m elderly, so this service by the church keeps me going. I call [the church members] God’s angels,” said Johnson, who lives near the church in Temple Hills. “This helps me out a whole lot.”
Johnson remains one of the thousands of Prince George’s County residents in the majority-Black jurisdiction labeled “food insecure” that is, lacking resources to provide affordable and healthy food options.
The coronavirus pandemic increased hunger by 50% while an estimated 211,000 children went without consistent nutritious meals in the D.C. region, according to the Capital Area Food Bank, which ranks Prince George’s County first in the region for food insecurity.
A Food Equity Council, established in 2013, seeks to promote local farmers markets, collaborating with food service providers and working with county leaders to boost the county’s food system.
The council met virtually Tuesday, July 27 to outline strategies so more residents receive access to healthy food options.
Last week, during a public ceremony, Washington Gas invested $315,000 for three refrigerated trailers to store fruits, vegetables and dairy products as a way to preserve and reduce food waste. The company teamed up with the Council and they have placed the trailers in Lanham, Landover and Brandywine.
Nonetheless, there still remains a need for more food options. In addition, the council’s work includes connecting with a county Climate Action Commission. Among their goals — to provide recommendations to improve the environment which include promoting a healthy food system.
Before the commission presents a final plan to County Council by Sept. 30, the equity council has several proposed actions such as:
- County government should create a food policy director position to coordinate emergency food assistance, secure grants and other efforts.
- Shift to a more “climate-friendly diet” and reduce emissions by 25%.
- Adopt a Good Food Purchasing program and incorporate into county agencies with a similar service done in neighboring Washington, D.C.
One question surfaced about how to make community gardens sustainable.
Marci LeFevre, who works for the city of Hyattsville’s Community Services, said one way to keep local gardens afloat would be to partner with the schools. She mentioned an urban gardening project in D.C. called “City Blossoms, www.cityblossoms.org, where students maintain gardens throughout the city.
“They use the produce from the gardens and herbs and flowers,” she said. “They sell them. They make products. They just do lovely work and I’m sure others can learn from them.”
Still, the council doesn’t just focus on food-related matters.
It will host a COVID-19 food provider assistance call Thursday, Aug. 5 with county and nonprofit officials during which they will give information on utility assistance, eviction prevention and changes to upcoming state laws.
For more information or to register for the call, go to www.pgcfec.org.