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 underserved 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
Bernie Tylor, Media Relations
C: (571) 405-0248