BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore City will use another $11 million of its American Rescue Plan Act funds to assist the Department of Planning’s efforts to combat food insecurity, Mayor Brandon Scott said.

The money will go toward several initiatives from the agency’s Food Policy & Planning Division, which distributes boxes of produce and supports incentives for more nutritious options at farmers’ markets, a MedStar Health initiative to provide outgoing patients with fresh produce, and a training program for urban farms in the city’s “Black Butterfly.”

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In the fall, Scott announced a $16 million allocation to the Baltimore City Health Department to continue a food delivery service for seniors and  home-bound residents and the distribution of fresh meals and grocery boxes.

“Food insecurity has skyrocketed due to the pandemic, and there is a genuine need to address these issues for our residents,” said Scott. “We have learned invaluable lessons over the last two years as the fragility of our food system, and the ability to feed our residents was exposed during the pandemic.”

Scott went on to say the $11 million would increase access to healthy food and address supply issues by building up local communities of color.

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Since the start of the pandemic, the rate of food security in Baltimore has increased from from 18% to 21.7%, with 1 in 3 children lacking consistent access to food, Scott’s office said.

SNAP participation has sharply increased from 25% of residents to more than 33%, or approximately 200,000 people.

The Planning Department’s Food Policy & Planning Division developed the city’s COVID-19 Emergency Food Response plan, which included distributing produce outdoors at churches, community organizations, schools and rec centers. To date, the city has distributed 175 million servings of fresh fruits and vegetables to residents in Healthy Food Priority Areas through the program, Scott’s office said.

“We partnered with over 100 community organizations to distribute over 1.7 million boxes of food, totaling over $35 million, all 100% reimbursable by FEMA,” said Taylor LaFave, chief of Food Policy and Planning. “ This effort helped resolve food system issues, and we are excited that it has culminated in this funding to continue to supply food insecure residents with healthy food options while creating an equitable and resilient urban food system.”

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This new round of funding will allow the division to continue its programming “while developing long-term solutions for a more equitable food system,” the mayor’s office said.

CBS Baltimore Staff