On Wednesday, May 6th the Southern Maryland Food Council hosted their 2nd Annual Foodways Community Networking Event. The event was attended by an enthusiastic group of food and farm advocates from around Southern Maryland.
The evening incorporated a lively and fun networking session designed to engage participants in ice-breaker activities to encourage introductions this was followed by breakout discussion and action planning groups dedicated to three discussion topics identified as projects of interest to the community; feeding hungry kids outside of school, community gardens and the emerging Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission’s (SMADC) Agricultural & Food Innovation Center.
The table discussing Feeding Hungry Kids Outside of Schools represented individuals from 8 different anti-hunger groups. Conversation centered on enhanced communication between the various organizations to enable combined resources and programs to be easily accessed throughout Southern Maryland, and in particular ways to improve access to healthy foods for children during and outside the school year. Little Jack Woodford of HeartFELT Ministries commented, “we shared some great ideas and received helpful resources to take home.” The group also identified challenges to address hunger in rural areas and the difficulties of using the current public transportation system in the three counties.
Community Gardens participants discussed resources available on starting community gardens. As definitions and regulations surrounding community gardens vary from county to county, the group focused on aggregating information for those interested in starting their own community garden and expressed interest to work together to create a map of the community gardens available to residents in Southern Maryland.
A large and diverse group comprised of hunger organizations, food pantries and varied farming enterprises discussed the emerging Agriculture and Food Innovation Center with Dr. Christine Bergmark, Executive Director, SMADC. Participants expressed the need for initiatives that support new and beginning farmers as well as existing farm enterprises. Several farmers expressed the timeliness for an enhanced food distribution system which would allow greater access to metro DC markets currently dominated by farms from Virginia, Pennsylvania and beyond. They also saw opportunities for hunger organizations to benefit from the center. Some hoped efforts could engage county school systems to develop agriculture curriculum for high school students.
Foodways resource materials used to aid planning and discussions are available free to the general public on the Southern Maryland Food Council website. For this, more information and future events visit www.somdfoodcouncil.com.