Montgomery County officials will gather in a few weeks to discuss the creation of what is believed to be the first county-wide food recovery program.
The concept — taking unused and leftover food from restaurants, government buildings and other institutions and donating them to food banks, homeless shelters or other providers — has gained traction with programs in Washington, D.C. and New York City. But the county says a Montgomery County program would be the first nationwide operated across a county.
On Sept. 10, members of the County Council’s Food Recovery Work Group will gather with nonprofit leaders, private partners and others to detail the group’s report, which it will present to the Council during its session that morning.
Councilmember Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring) organized the Work Group after seeing a group of University of Maryland students start a food recovery program at dining halls and sports facilities on campus.
With the amount of food insecure people on the rise in Montgomery, Ervin and the group studied how a program would work in the county. Manna Food Center, the county’s main food bank in Gaithersburg, will play a large role. The Food Center is relied upon by most nonprofits that provide food for those in-need.
A third of MCPS students qualified to receive Free and Reduced Price Meals last school year, an indicator of food insecurity.
“Hunger is an ever-increasing problem in our community, and many of our working families struggle to put food on the table,” Ervin said. “Since we have numerous public institutions and private sector partners who dispose of unwanted food, it seemed like a no brainer for the county to follow the lead of the students who began the food recovery movement.”
The Work Group looked at costs of a food recovery network and developed a strategic action plan for implementation. There will also be recommended policy changes to make the program work.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, about 19 percent of the county’s waste stream is made up of food.
“In my mind, this initiative is a win-win as those who donate food receive tax benefits and those in need receive healthy meals.”