(PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, Md.) — The silence of hunger has been heard loud and clear thanks to the Prince George’s County Food Security Task Force, the Institute for Public Health Innovation (IPHI), and IPHI’s Prince George’s County Food Equity Council (FEC). The group completed a report to address the county’s food-security challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The report recommends 11 solutions (four foundational and seven general strategies) for the Prince George’s County Council, Office of the County Executive, and County agencies to adopt.
The report highlights timely policy recommendations and strategies to improve food security, increase food system resiliency, and ensure county agency and community officials are prepared to respond to food-security challenges in future public health, environmental, or economic emergencies. “The Food Security Task Force final report and recommendations set the table for addressing food insecurity in the county and its impact on our quality of life. It presents a strong foundation and best practices guide for the county, especially as we continue to address the additional impacts of ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic,” said Task Force Chair, Council Member Todd M. Turner (4th Council District).
The following recommendations are outlined in the report:
a. Create and fund a Prince George’s County Food Security Office.
b. Gather, analyze, and use data to inform and drive County agency food security decisions.
c. Increase resident participation in federal nutrition assistance programs.
d. Develop a master communication strategy for food security, resilience, and emergency preparedness.
Food Security Policies and Programs Recommendations
1. Plan for future food security disruptions by developing an emergency food security plan that integrates food system experts into existing emergency management operations.
2. Increase access to bulk food purchasing, infrastructure, and resources for food assistance providers.
3. Co-locate food security and social safety net services to create closed-loop referral systems.
4. Improve transportation options for residents to access healthy food retailers and providers.
5. Leverage state and regional partners for cross-jurisdictional food systems planning, coordinated communication, and infrastructure development.
6. Provide land access, infrastructure, and resources to help agriculture flourish.
7. Continue to provide and expand market incentives to support healthy food retailers of multiple sizes in target communities.
The Task Force advised the Prince George’s County Council and County Executive to implement these recommendations to address the ongoing food security crisis.
IPHI Senior Program Manager Sydney Daigle said, “The recommendations provided in this report are informed by experts and advocates who have been working tirelessly to address food security during the pandemic and for years before it. Taken collectively, these strategies present an opportunity to advance healthy food access and food security for residents now and for years to come.”
The Prince George’s County Council established the Prince George’s County Food Security Task Force in 2020 and it was extended in 2021. The Task Force is comprised of 21 members from specific county agencies and non-profit food system stakeholders. The Task Force leveraged the Food System Study initiated by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC) and FEC to serve as a guide to combat food insecurity, which can stem from several interrelated causes.
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About the Prince George’s County Food Equity Council: The Prince George’s County Food Equity Council (FEC) is a local food policy council that works to help residents grow, sell, and choose healthy foods. Since 2013, FEC has been a voice for county residents at the policymaking table. The FEC focuses on systematic and sustainable changes to promote health, economic opportunity, food security, and well-being in Prince George’s by advocating for policy that creates a more equitable local food system. The FEC is housed within the Institute for Public Health Innovation. For more information on FEC, visit www.pgcfec.org and follow FEC on social media @pgcfec.
About the Institute for Public Health Innovation:
IPHI develops multi-sector partnerships and innovative solutions to improve the public’s health and well-being across Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. IPHI strengthens health systems, policies, enhances conditions that promote health, and builds community capacity to ensure equitable opportunities for all. IPHI is one of over 40 public health institutes across the country and a member of the National Network of Public Health Institutes. For more information about IPHI, visit: www.institutephi.org, and follow IPHI on Facebook and Twitter @InstitutePHI.
Three new refrigerated trailers that are part of a $315,000 investment by Washington Gas to support food security will increase food storage capacity, reduce food waste, and create sustainable infrastructure to respond to future food system disruptions
July 20, 2021 (Prince George’s County, MD) – Today, the Prince George’s County Food Equity Council (FEC), an initiative of the Institute for Public Health Innovation (IPHI), and Washington Gas introduced three new cold storage trailers at non-profit food assistance organizations in Brandywine, Landover, and Lanham. In partnership with Washington Gas, the FEC helped partners purchase, upgrade, and design a wrap for the refrigerated trailers that will enable food assistance providers and food pantries to distribute more fresh food to residents in need.
The three new 58 x 8-foot trucks will each be shared by at least four neighboring organizations. Participating organizations will work together to purchase perishable foods like fruits, vegetables, and dairy that will be stored in the shared refrigerated space. The trailers provide an opportunity to distribute more fresh and healthy food items to under-resourced and vulnerable families. The new space helps increase the amount of food that can be stored and distributed while also reducing the amount of perishable food wasted due to insufficient cold storage space.
Over the course of the pandemic, food insecurity has skyrocketed with an estimated 150,000 food-insecure residents in Prince George’s County, the highest food insecurity rates in the region. Food pantries have doubled down to meet the growing demand; however, infrastructure challenges have remained a significant barrier to increasing services.
“Cold storage space has been a major challenge for food assistance organizations and food pantries throughout the county,” said Sydney Daigle, FEC Director. “The increased demand on local service organizations requires more food and more space to store that food. If an organization can’t properly store the food they’re receiving, they’ll have to limit the amount they’re bringing in. By increasing the amount of space organizations have to properly store healthy food and keep it fresh, organizations can serve more families in need. That’s a huge win for our county.”
The three non-profit partners consider the project a way to strengthen their capabilities and build a better safety-net system for clients in their areas. “We know that our ability to reliably serve food for vulnerable clients is a collective effort,” said Pastor Tino Cione from Trinity Church of God, one of the trailer host sites. “The new trailers demonstrate how teamwork makes it possible to help us and other local service providers ensure more healthy food gets in the hands of more people at our distribution locations. This is an incredible gift that will have a positive impact across our local food distribution network.”
Washington Gas sees this as an opportunity to continue its support of immediate and long-term food security needs in the region, part of the company’s wider giving strategy supporting social service organizations throughout the DC-region. It also ties closely with the company’s mission of improving the quality of life by safely and reliably connecting customers to affordable sources of energy today and beyond. Funding for this project went toward the purchase and upgrades of the three trailers at Key to Karma, Shabach! Emergency Resource Center, and Trinity Assembly of God. Washington Gas also supported the hiring of local artists to design and paint the outside of the trailers.
“We applaud our partners at the Prince George’s County Food Council for the innovative approach of adding cold food storage capacity to better meet the critical needs of our community,” said Blue Jenkins, President of Washington Gas. “As a provider of essential and reliable energy services to the region and members of this community, we are committed to giving back and supporting our neighbors in need with essential fresh foods. We recognize that food insecurity issues have grown significantly during the pandemic and we all have a role to play in caring for our communities.”
“Throughout the pandemic, we have provided $315,000 to assist the distribution and availability of nutritious food for residents in communities across the region,” added Jenkins. “Together, our collaboration makes possible the infrastructure for sustained and reliable access to essential food for our neighbors now and into the future.”
While food insecurity pre-dates the COVID-19 pandemic, financial insecurity and intersecting challenges caused by the pandemic increased food insecurity and raised these challenges as a top priority for funders, non-profit partners, and local government.
“The COVID-19 pandemic, which threatens public health and safety for our residents, has worsened existing food insecurity issues throughout our region, including Prince George’s County,” said Council Member Todd M. Turner (4th Council District). “These challenges have spurred local government, community partners, and funders to jointly develop creative strategies to help feed our community. These new refrigerated trailers offer great examples of the innovative solutions that help to increase the amount of fresh, healthy foods that food distribution partners are giving to families in need every day.”
In addition to addressing the growing trend of food insecurity, the project serves as a proof of concept for future innovative food system infrastructure projects. Partners will continue to share best practices and explore lessons learned to develop additional cold storage solutions and increase the distribution of healthy, fresh food in Prince George’s County.
About the Prince George’s County Food Equity Council:
The Prince George’s County Food Equity Council (FEC) is a local food policy council that works to help residents grow, sell, and choose healthy foods. Since 2013, FEC has been a voice for county residents at the policymaking table. The FEC focuses on systematic and sustainable changes to promote health, economic opportunity, food security, and well-being in Prince George’s by advocating for policy that creates a more equitable local food system. The FEC is housed within the Institute for Public Health Innovation. For more information on FEC, visit www.pgcfec.org and follow FEC on social media @pgcfec.
About the Institute for Public Health Innovation:
IPHI develops multi-sector partnerships and innovative solutions to improve the public’s health and well-being across Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Our work strengthens health systems and policy, enhances conditions that promote health, and builds community capacity to ensure equitable health opportunities for all. IPHI is one of over 40 public health institutes across the country and a member of the National Network of Public Health Institutes. For more information on IPHI, see www.institutephi.org, and follow IPHI on Facebook and Twitter @InstitutePHI.
About Washington Gas
Washington Gas, a wholly owned subsidiary of AltaGas Ltd, is a regulated natural gas utility that provides safe, reliable and affordable natural gas service to more than 1.2 million customers in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. The company has been providing energy to residential, commercial and industrial customers for more than 173 years. Visit us at www.washingtongas.com and follow us on Twitter @washingtongas, LinkedIn and Facebook.
Prince George’s County Food Equity Council
Julia Groenfeldt, Coordinator
E: [email protected]
The Institute for Public Health Innovation (IPHI) and the Prince George’s County Food Equity Council (FEC) are working in partnership with the National Collaborative for Health Equity and Drexel University to host focus groups in Prince George’s County, MD.The overarching objective of this study is to stimulate community action to address the targeted marketing of unhealthy foods. To view the flyer, click: HERE.
Participants can participate in the focus groups if they are:
Males or females between the ages of 18 to 25
Males or females between the ages 26 to 55 who have children ages 3 to 17 in their household
Self-identified as African American or Black American
Willing and available to participate in the two rounds of focus groups, held approximately 1 week apart at designated dates and times
Able to give informed consent
Able to speak, read, and understand English
Currently living in Prince George’s County, MD
Times and Dates of Focus Groups
18-25 year old adult focus group: December 4th & 9th, 6:30-8:00 p.m.
26-55 year old adult focus group:December 3rd & 10th, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Drexel University received funding for this study from Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, and the study is sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies.
To sign up or for more information, please contact Lauren Nixon at (240) 252-2016 or [email protected].