Mayor’s Office of Human Services Creates Emergency Food Working Group

Mayor’s Office of Human Services Creates Emergency Food Working Group

Goal is to create a food plan to prepare for future disasters or emergencies

BALTIMORE, Md. (November 4, 2015)—The Mayor’s Office of Human Services announced today the creation of an Emergency Food Working Group to better prepare for Baltimore City’s food needs in potential future disasters or emergencies.

The development of the emergency food plan aims to coordinate the response of Baltimore City agencies and its partners in addressing the food needs of vulnerable populations during unforeseen events such as hurricanes or civil unrest.
“We owe it to our residents to continually strive to improve, and this Working Group will allow us to do that,” said Dr. Jacquelyn Duval-Harvey, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Human Services.

A few weeks ago, Hurricane Joaquin served as a reminder of Baltimore’s potential vulnerabilities to unforeseen natural events that impact the food supply. Last spring’s unrest also provided important lessons on how residents access food. Baltimore City’s strong network of emergency food providers, such as The Community Action Partnership centers, were open and became donation sites for food, toiletries and other basic needs. Churches and other non-profit groups also provided essentials to many communities.

“The importance of this Emergency Food Working Group is to ensure that those who need food most have access, whether it is through food pantries, soup kitchens or grocery stores,” said Holly Freishtat, Baltimore City Food Policy Director. “This working group is the first step to increase efficiencies and strategies to make sure no one goes hungry in times of greatest need.”

The development of an emergency food plan – expected to be developed in the next 90 to 120 days – will enable Baltimore to join cities around the country that are creating their own emergency food and food resilience plans. The Emergency Food Working Group will look to plans from others cities to craft protocols and strategies, but will aim to create a plan that works specifically for Baltimore’s unique needs.

The working group will include representatives from a wide range of Baltimore City agencies, as well as outside organizations involved in food and community assistance activities.

The emergency food plan is expected to specifically focus on Baltimore City’s food deserts. In Baltimore, a quarter of the population and 30 percent of children live in food deserts – areas where residents lack both economic resources and immediate access to healthy foods.

In emergencies, the most vulnerable populations – especially children, seniors and low-income populations – are the most likely to be impacted by disruptions or unexpected disasters. Food desert neighborhoods already lack access to healthy foods, and this scarcity is exacerbated by an emergency situation. The city’s most recent food desert report – Mapping Baltimore’s Food Environment: 2015 – provides data and insight on food deserts throughout the city. The report will be used to help inform the working group in planning against the impacts of unforeseen events and access to food.

The Emergency Food Working Group will be the first step in an incremental process to create a broader Food Resilience Plan for Baltimore City. The food system is a complex network of production, distribution, consumption and waste systems, and considering factors such as equity and accessibility is paramount for success. This plan will build off the recommendations of the Disaster Preparedness and Planning Project (DP3) and will address both cyclical and unforeseen disruptions to the food system.

The plan will engage stakeholders involved in Baltimore’s food system. Analyzing and planning for the food system in the context of resilience will help Baltimore to further its strong work in disaster planning, and strengthen its reputation as a 5-STAR Community.

 

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