Creating a Sustainable Food Access Model in Baltimore
Having previously served as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Maryland Farmers Market Association, I was thrilled at the opportunity to join the Hungry Harvest family in June working towards creating a sustainable food access model here in Baltimore where I was born and raised. I'm passionate about my work and our mission because I believe that everyone has the right to access fresh, affordable food. People shouldn't have to choose between food and medicine. Low-income populations shouldn't be more vulnerable to chronic diseases due to the under-resourced communities in which they live. Parents shouldn't have to skip meals so their kids can have food. No matter where they live, what their income is, or how the economy is doing, no person should go hungry.
- We live in the wealthiest, most agriculturally abundant country in the history of the world, yet 20% of produce goes to waste every year (worth $16 billion) and nearly 50 million people live in homes that can’t afford enough food.
- 13 million American children live in homes that can’t afford enough food. That roughly equals the population of NYC and LA combined.
- 1 in 4 residents of Baltimore City live in areas classified as food deserts.
- The Executive Director of Hunger Free America, Joel Berg, says that “Because hungry workers can’t work, hungry seniors can’t stay independent, and hungry children can’t learn, hunger costs our economy $167 billion each year.”
- Despite its status as one of the wealthiest states in the nation, Maryland communities are deeply impacted by food insecurity, meaning they lack reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. In fact, Maryland is home to more than 760,000 people who do not have enough to eat.
What are we doing about it?
At Hungry Harvest we use this issue of food waste to solve hunger. Each week we donate roughly 5,000 pounds of produce to food pantries and food banks throughout our delivery zones such as the Maryland Food Bank, DC Central Kitchen, Nourish Now, Rainbow Community Development Center, Philabundance, and Manna Food Center. We also have a partnership with the Baltimore Police Department, who comes and picks up between 70 boxes of produce each week (an additional 700 pounds) and delivers them to needy families throughout the city. The Western District, for example, delivers to low-income seniors who have a limited food budget and low mobility. With the help of our donation partners, we have donated nearly 350,000 pounds of produce over the last two years.
Donating produce is only one piece of the puzzle to ending hunger.
We want to cultivate food justice by allowing hungry families the opportunity to access fresh, affordable produce in food-insecure areas on a weekly basis. President Barack Obama recently stated that we need to create “a system that distributes excess produce to communities where too many kids go to bed hungry.” That being said, we are working on a solution! Hungry Harvest is launching weekly produce pickup sites at public schools throughout Baltimore City where families with children attending the schools and others from the community can purchase our fresh, recovered produce at a discounted price.
“The Franklin Square Community is known as a food desert, however, thanks to Hungry Harvest we're able to purchase fresh produce at an affordable cost every Thursday at the Franklin Square Elementary/Middle School.”
-Edith Gilliard, President, Franklin Square Community Association
We currently operate a weekly produce pickup site at Franklin Square Elementary/Middle School. In this site’s short history, we have sold nearly 1,000 pounds of subsidized fruits and veggies to people living in Franklin Square and its surrounding communities. Edith Gilliard, President of the Franklin Square Community Association, says that this pickup site is “undoubtedly a necessity in our community.” How do we expect kids growing up in these communities to succeed when they don’t have access to healthy food outside of school, and according to congress, their school pizza is considered a vegetable?
“To be well schooled you must be well fueled. To be well read you must be well fed.”
-Joel Berg, Executive Director, Hunger Free America
Imagine if there were affordable fruits and veggies at every school located in a community with a high population of residents living in food insecurity. We were even recently approved by the USDA to accept SNAP-EBT (formerly known as Food Stamps) at our produce pickup sites! There’s no doubt that SNAP is beneficial for many families, as the program has the ability to propel millions out of poverty and into more stable living conditions, which is why we are elated to accept these federal nutrition benefits to further fight hunger.
"One-third of our country's population is children, but children are 100 percent of our future. Their health today is our country's wealth tomorrow."
-Diane Heller, former chair of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Offering discounted produce allows our customers in these communities to stretch their food budget and increase their purchasing power. Hungry Harvest does not profit from this program, as any revenue goes towards expanding the program and hiring members from the communities to manage their sites.
Now Hungry Harvest is not only donating produce for each box that we sell, but we are also offering consistent discounted produce to food-insecure families :)