This article contains news and information released March, 19, 2020 about food assistance available in Prince George’s County and news about the regional food supply chain.
Officials urge Maryland food producers to stay in business
The Maryland Department of Agriculture said it is essential for the state’s food supply chain to remain up and running. This is not normal.
In a statement issued March 19, the Maryland Department of Agriculture said “reliable access to food is a human right and it is a critical that our food supply chain maintain – and even be prepared to expand – operations throughout this state of emergency.”
The statement, which you can read in full here, lists several industries from agricultural suppliers to grocers to crabbers to veterinary services, as “essential” businesses exempt from executive orders banning business operations at bars and restaurants and other non-essential retailers.
“As essential businesses, the department is asking you to remain open and operational—normally and safely—until or unless directed otherwise. Develop procedures for safe operation of your facility or farm and post those procedures for the benefit of your employees and the broader public.”
“We understand that there are a number of challenges facing businesses right now. Please keep the Maryland Department of Agriculture informed of any regulatory/statutory challenge or hurdle that may impede production, processing or sales so we can address it accordingly and promptly.”
Farmers markets urged to stay open, too
Farmers markets are included in the essential business category, too. That was a source of confusion earlier in the day after Gov Larry Hogan announced new executive orders curtailing public gatherings to no more than 10 people. Riverdale Park canceled its scheduled Thursday Farmers’ market, saying on Twitter “we are working to gain clarity on the revised executive order as it relates to farmers markets.”
In a separate press release issued later in the day, Maryland Ag officials clarified matters.
“Farmers markets play a critical role in providing fresh, nutritious and locally-produced food products to customers across the state—especially those Marylanders who live in food deserts and those who rely on SNAP benefits to access fresh produce,” said Secretary Joe Bartenfelder. “It is important that we keep that supply line open while making sure we implement the same preventative measures used in grocery stores and other essential retail businesses.”
After the clarification, but too late to relaunch the market yesterday, Riverdale Park Mayor Alan Thompson said the city made a decision with limited information, saying that the text of Hogan’s executive order was not available. He said the market would return next Thursday.
“With multiple opinions, the call was made to close,” said Thompson on Twitter. “We received guidance that [it was okay] only 20 minutes ago.”
Meals on Wheels stretched thin; launches food drive at College Park United Methodist Church
Starting March 20, 2020, the College Park United Methodist Church at 9601 Rhode Island Avenue will begin collecting non-perishable food donations using a bin in the church’s back parking lot. The food will benefit the local Meals on Wheels program.
Organizer Lisa Ealley said the charity has been overwhelmed since the pandemic took hold in Prince George’s.
“We have taken on many more clients than we have ever had or ever expected to have,” said Ealley. “We need 20 loaves of bread per day to feed our clients and last weekend after going from store to store seeing empty shelves it made me wonder how we could get through this.”
Ealley said her organization has 120 clients to feed so far.
“As the days go on, we know that more and more seniors will need assistance,” said Ealley.
Reminder: Free vegetables in Riverdale Park March 20
More elder hours
Whole Foods announced elder hours yesterday. Today, Safeway, Giant and Save-A-Lot announced their elder hours policies as well.
Safeway’s elder hours are 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Giant hours are 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. daily. Save-A-Lot hours are 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. daily.
Lidl, which has several locations in Prince George’s County, has reduced hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at its U.S. stores. Aldi has reduced its hours from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily at its U.S. stores.
Route 1 Reporter wants to know about your food security news!
Is your organization running a food drive, food pantry or other event to address nutritional needs during the pandemic? Are you a grocer who’s offering special services to vulnerable populations? If so, contact editor Michael Theis at this link with details to share here.
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