New Group Aims to Connect Food Providers with Needy

Goal is to guide leftover food from restaurants and supermarkets to nonprofits that fight hunger in the county


Published:

via Montgomery County Food Security Collaborative

The Montgomery County Food Security Collaborative wants your unused food.

Whether you’re a restaurant owner, farmer, supermarket manager or caterer, the collaborative hopes to collect your excess food so it can be distributed to local nonprofits working to fight hunger.

The idea for the collaborative comes from Andy Burness of Burness Communications, a Bethesda-based public relations firm serving nonprofits. Burness said he has found that local nonprofits fighting hunger often duplicate each other’s efforts. He believed the local business community could help by developing a way for food providers and nonprofit distributors to share information so they can efficiently deliver food to those who need it while partnering with the local groups already handling the issue in the county.

To complete its mission, the collaborative is setting out to raise $2 million over three years in an effort to significantly reduce hunger in the county by 2020. The initiative has gained support from the county as well as nine local nonprofits.

Despite the county’s reputation as a wealthy enclave, there’s plenty of work to be done on the hunger front. According to the nonprofit Maryland Hunger Solutions, nearly 70,000 county residents receive monthly food stamp benefits and about 35,000 children live in “food insecure” households, uncertain where their next meal is coming from.

Wendy Mackie, Burness’s chief financial officer, has worked for a year and a half on setting up the collaborative. The collaborative will officially launch at 9 a.m. Friday at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Rockville. The event will feature Cecilia Rocha of the Centre for Studies in Food Security at Ryerson University in Toronto, who will speak about how Belo Horizonte, Brazils’ third largest city, worked to eradicate hunger.

“We have enough recoverable food in the county to feed all the food insecure,” Mackie said. The problem is that many restaurants and caterers don’t donate leftover food or don’t know that they can, she said.

The collaborative plans to act as a hub for nonprofits who already distribute to or recover food for the needy, such as Nourish Now, which is focused on food recovery, Gaithersburg Help and Bethesda Cares. It expects to create a shared database listing food providers, the types of food they can donate and when the food is available; as well as information about what nonprofits need and the people they serve.

“The county's Food Recovery Working Group is already looking into a potential system that the county is in desperate need of that will put technology to work for what is clearly a logistical issue,” Mackie said. She said the ideal system would include a way for food providers to quickly report they have excess food and alert a collaborative employee or a nonprofit that could immediately pick up the donation.

The collaborative also will send staff members to negotiate with restaurants, caterers, supermarkets and other food providers to convince them to donate their leftover food, according to Mackie, and work with the county's food recovery group to handle logistics.

 

Read more about the local groups fighting hunger in Montgomery County in Bethesda Magazine’s September/ October issue article “The Hunger Fighters”

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