How many hungry people could government and community programs feed if food that would otherwise be thrown away was redistributed to those who needed it?
Montgomery County Council member Valerie Ervin (D-Dist 5) is hoping to find out. Ervin announced Friday that she wants to start a food recovery program in Montgomery County based on a model created by students at the University of Maryland.
At Maryland, the Food Recovery Network collects unused food from special events, such as football games and alumni parties, and redistributes the food to hungry people. The group has donated more than 30,000 meals, according to a release from the county council.
“Hunger is an ever-increasing problem in our county,” Ervin said in a statement. “The food recovery initiative will not only help our area non-profit organizations who fight hunger, but should also reduce the amount of food that ends up in our waste stream.
“In my mind, this initiative is a win-win as those who donate food receive tax benefits and those in need receive healthy meals,” she continued.
More people in Montgomery County are applying for public assistance than ever before, according to the council's release. Another poverty indicator—the number of school students who qualify for free or reduced meals—is also growing in the county. About one-third of students in the county's public schools now qualify.
The program would be a boon to local food banks, like Manna, which endorsed Ervin's plan in a statement.
“Given the continuing demand for food at Manna Food Center, a key to our future success is finding new sources of food donations,” Minerva Delgado, executive director of Manna, said. “This initiative is an important step in that direction.”
Before any food is saved, the council will convene a work group to figure out costs and other logistics of such a network. The findings of the group will be presented to council in a final report next July.