After the federal government abruptly ended funding for a pandemic-related fresh produce distribution program in Baltimore, city officials said they would find other funds to re-start the program, a lifeline for many seniors and other residents.
They acknowledged upfront that they would only allocate enough funding to distribute 2,000 boxes per week. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had been funding 17,000 boxes of fruits and vegetables a week.
The administration of Mayor Brandon Scott recently released more details. The produce box program is to get a portion of an $11 million allocation from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, a news release said.
What would that actually mean for programs like the one Kim Trueheart had been running off Liberty Heights Avenue in northwest Baltimore, where 280 boxes were being provided to the community each week?
“They told me it would be 70 boxes – maybe,” Trueheart told The Brew, “and it’s not enough.”
“We cannot short sell people!” she said. “I know how to add, and this is not what we had.”
Other Food Programs
Asked to confirm how many boxes will be allocated to Trueheart’s program, food access planner Yewande Akinkuowo said the amount “has not been confirmed.”
She said Food Policy and Planning, a division of the Department of Planning, “is working to resume the produce box distribution program mid-June.”
In the press release, city officials said the $11 million will be used to fund the five components of its “Clean & Healthy Communities” project:
• Continue COVID-19 emergency produce box distribution.
• Increase online SNAP participation and distribute fruit and vegetable e-incentives to residents.
• Expand nutrition incentives at farmers’ markets.
• Implement a Produce Prescription (Rx) program at MedStar Harbor Hospital.
• Build the BIPOC local food supply chain by improving access to produce.
The release noted previous expenditures by the Scott administration intended to alleviate food insecurity, including $16 million allocated last fall to the City Health Department, with the goal of providing 20,000 fresh meals and 1,200 grocery boxes per month as well as a food delivery service for seniors and home-bound populations.