Montgomery County Council members unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that establishes an Office of Food Systems Resilience within the county executive branch.
Just over $1 million in funding has already been approved for the office, which would be tasked with integrating programs operating within multiple county departments — the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Community Partnerships and the county’s Office of Agriculture — with those of local food assistance providers.
Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Earl Stoddard previously told Bethesda Beat the programs include those providing food assistance as well as those that touch on other important social services such as helping people find employment or an affordable place to live.
The new office also will advise the county executive and the council on “food systems-related policy issues,” along with delivering an annual report with recommended policy, budgetary and administrative changes, according to the bill. The legislation was sponsored by council President Gabe Albornoz on behalf of County Executive Marc Elrich.
Albornoz said in an interview hiring staff for the office will be a priority — notably a director who will need to understand the community in order to “hit the ground running.”
He added that the director and the office staff will be given access to county data available on food insecurity and other issues, so they can share it with faith-based organizations and community partners to achieve the goals in the bill — including the integration of services between county offices, the drafting of policies for grants, the review of food systems countywide, and others.
The office also would establish policies for grants and coordinate with other county resources to pursue county, state and federal funding. Angela Whitmal, senior director of people and culture at the Gaithersburg nonprofit Manna Food, previously told Bethesda Beat that providing food assistance is just one part of the solution for helping families that face food insecurity.
It’s imperative that county government and larger nonprofits like Manna Food connect with churches and smaller organizations to accomplish the goals of the bill, Whitmal said.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org