An appointment-only thrift store at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Hyattsville, Maryland, is stocked with pounds of food and other nonperishable items on Jan. 24. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)
An appointment-only thrift store at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Hyattsville, Maryland, is stocked with pounds of food and other nonperishable items on Jan. 24. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

A food-security task force in Prince George’s County has completed its report on how to provide healthy nutrition options in a jurisdiction among the most limited in the D.C. region for food choices.

One of the task force’s recommendations for Prince George’s officials to consider while working on the fiscal 2023 budget proposal is to set aside at least $250,000 to create a food security office. A director and staff would coordinate and lead various programs with other county agencies, private businesses, local farmers and residents.

“Prior to the pandemic, we didn’t have a centralized focused office addressing food issues,” said County Council member Todd Turner (D-District 4) of Bowie, who chaired the 21-member task force. “We have the [county’s] Food Equity Council to fill that role as a nonprofit in the interim, but there needs to be a full response from governmental, private sector, not-for-profit sector to be able to address these issues in the future.”

The task force document cited the Capital Area Food Bank’s “Hunger Report” from last year that shows the majority-Black jurisdiction continues to lead the D.C. region in food insecurity, or lack of resources to provide affordable and healthy food options. The percentage increased from 14.3% in 2019 to 17% during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

Despite tax incentives for grocers to move to the county and food distribution events that remain ongoing, the task force issued 11 recommendations (four foundational and seven general) to address short- and long-term food needs.

Some of them are:

•   Establish "robust" data collection to assess a person's ability to access affordable and healthy food choices.
•   Increase resident participation in federal nutrition programs.
•   Incorporate food security measures into existing emergency operations such as snowstorms and when other extreme weather conditions affect the region.
•   Increase and invest in transportation for residents in rural and underserved areas.

These and other budgetary items are scheduled for discussion during the county’s first budget listening session on Feb. 1 at 6 p.m. Residents who want to testify during the virtual meeting must sign up by Jan. 31 at 5 p.m.

The county continues to offer food programs such as “Stand Up and Deliver,” one of the county’s first launched during the pandemic, has distributed more than 1 million meals and other nonperishable items to residents at churches, community centers and other locations.

The Capital Area Food Bank recently opened a mobile grocery truck offering produce, dairy, personal care items and other products in the county’s underserved areas.

As for the task force recommendations, whether they meet the county council’s approval for inclusion in the upcoming budget remains to be seen.

“The council appreciates the diligent work of the task force and looks forward to reviewing the final report and recommendations,” council Chair Calvin Hawkins II said in a statement.

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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