Takeaways from MACoCon: Keeping Our Food Infrastructure Functioning in Times of Crisis

Establishing a system for keeping our food infrastructure functioning is one of the most critical functions of government.

COVID posed several challenges and opportunities for farmers, paving the way to build resiliency into the system. This was the topic of a presentation at the recent MACo Summer Conference. This session was hosted by Delegate Lorig Charkoudian.

At the beginning of the pandemic, many of our region’s food banks struggled to meet sudden high demand while consumers found grocery store shelves empty and staples scarce. Many local farmers, distributors, and aggregators quickly pivoted their operations and kept produce and other food flowing through the region, especially to those in need. But producers are still working with ill-suited infrastructure, skilled labor shortages, erratic weather, and the uncertainty of what the “new normal” poses for their businesses.

Nancy Nunn, Assistant Director of the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology; Cheryl DeBerry, Natural Resources Business Specialist of Garrett County; Carrie Stoltzfus, MPH, Executive Director of Food & Friends; and Deni Taveras, Vice Chair of Prince George’s County Council sat on the panel discussed their work in building in food resiliency across Maryland. Much of the conversation focused on bringing new retail technology to individual farms, helping farmers to sell their produce directly to consumers through mobile ordering and pick-up. Prince George’s County created a community led food distribution program for needy families which delivered over 1,630,000 pounds of food in 2020 alone.

The major takeaway from this session is that technology is the key to creating more resiliency in our food infrastructure, whether that be through helping local farmers with creating retail opportunities or helping to get the word out about resources in the community.

More about MACo’s Summer Conference:·       

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