County Plan Unveiled to Give Away Wasted Food from Grocery Stores, Catered Events

Countywide food recovery network could be first in nation.

(FILE | Patch) Montgomery County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring) has been spearheading an effort to re-distribute unused food to people in need.
(FILE | Patch) Montgomery County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring) has been spearheading an effort to re-distribute unused food to people in need.

Montgomery County officials were at Montgomery College’s Rockville campus Tuesday outlining what it would take to launch a program that would re-distribute food that would otherwise go to waste.

It’s believed that the proposed countywide program would be the first of its kind in the nation, county spokespeople have said.

The effort is being led by County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring). Ervin convened the press conference hours after a work group presented a roadmap to the Montgomery County Council for establishing a process for collecting unused, edible food and distributing to nonprofit providers who serve the hungry.

Back in January, Ervin led the “SNAP the Silence” movement that encouraged elected officials and everyday citizens to spend only $5 a day on food—an amount slightly higher than the $4.28 average daily allowance per person for those on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Last week, a staff member for Ervin told The Gazette the food recovery network proposes incorporating planned “recoveries,” like when a supermarket knows it will have surplus food, and “unplanned pickups,” like re-distributing edible leftovers from large weddings or catering events.

Manna Food Center, which is headquartered in Gaithersburg, is Montgomery County’s main food bank, county officials said. Jenna Umbriac, Manna’s director of nutrition programs, told The Gazette that restaurants and caterers might be an untapped market.

The work group—made up of government and school officials and representatives from local food banks, grocery store chains and nonprofits—was established to study the feasibility of such a program, Patch has reported.

In April, the County Council approved an appropriation of $200,000 to the Department of Health and Human Services to implement a food recovery system, county records show.

According to the report presented Tuesday, 1 in 8 Marylanders are food insecure. Also, one-third of students in Montgomery’s public schools qualify for Free and Reduced Price Meals (FARMS).

Sharon September 10, 2013 at 07:15 PM
I've been trying that initiative or personal program pursuit for years at different restaurants, grocery store, Cost Co {when it was Price Club years ago}, etc. Even before I retired asked the café that served our Federal employees in our office building why the leftovers couldn't be taken to a homeless shelter or homeless kitchen. This was an idea as far back as the 1990s. Told them I was even willing to load my car and drop off food myself at homeless shelter on Gude Drive on my way home from work. Was told they (food establishments) were restricted from doing such because of law regarding health issues and Health Department regulations. Unbelievable that it was a health issue to generously give away but no health issue to sell to the general public. Hummm! Even more ludicrous and enough to cause anger in the best of us was that I was told by Price Club i.e. that they threw food in dumpster behind the facility & that they didn't mind homeless basically 'dumpster diving'. "No law against that!" Informed by Price Club employee that "there is nothing to restrict or prevent homeless, the hungry from going through the trash". How degrading/debasing!! Hope at long last this redistribution program becomes a reality. So much 'waste' in the US when so much good (hungry stomachs filled) can come out of program such as this.
Sharon September 10, 2013 at 08:51 PM
I'm just really surprised as well, considering i.e. the panhandling situation and current initiative regarding panhandlers, that this common sense idea didn't get 'put on the table' by County AND State legislators years ago. Never too late for wonderful corporal works of mercy (feeding the hungry,giving drink to the thirsty clothing the naked, offering hospitality to the homeless caring for the sick, visiting the imprisoned, burying the dead)!
Jeannette September 12, 2013 at 10:52 AM
Maybe the time wasn't right back in the 90s, although it should have been. Anyway, I'm very happy that the idea is back and I hope it works out this time. It's unconscionable that hungry families in this county go without when there is so much food thrown away! Dumpster diving is not an option! Thank you, Councilmember Ervin, for leading this effort.
Titra Hamilton September 12, 2013 at 04:42 PM
It's about time. As a society, we waste more food than others have to eat. This is just wonderful, and will help so many families that are struggling to make ends meet. Hopefully, this will be a model that other counties/states can follow. Bravo!
Sharon September 13, 2013 at 05:55 PM


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