ELLICOTT CITY; 2:10 p.m. ET – Howard County Executive Ken Ulman on Monday announced the creation of the Howard County Food Policy Task Force, and asked the group to create a Food Hub to serve as a focal point connecting local growers with distributors and consumers. The Hub will increase the consumption of healthy and sustainably produced food.
“A smart and sustainable food initiative is the next step in our efforts to make Howard County a model public health community,” County Executive Ulman said. “We can boost the local production of food, and get that food into the mouths of the people who need it. It’s good for economic development and jobs. It’s good for health. And it’s a good way to preserve our agricultural heritage.”
The Food Policy Task Force and Food Hub are joint projects between Howard County and the Horizon Foundation. Each is providing funding for staffing, and for consulting services to launch the venture.
“Howard County is consistently ranked the healthiest county in Maryland, but more than 85 percent of residents fail to eat enough fruits and vegetables,” said Nikki Highsmith Vernick, President and CEO of the Horizon Foundation. “By expanding the availability of fresh, local produce, this initiative will help improve the health of our residents and our farms.”
County Executive Ulman asked the Task Force to develop plans for a Food Hub within a year. The Hub will be a facility allowing for the collection, storage and processing of locally produced healthy foods in one place. It would also contain an incubator kitchen for fledgling food businesses, as well as a mobile market to make fresh fruits and vegetables widely available.
The 2012 Howard County Health Assessment Survey found that 35 percent of county residents eat less than one serving of fruit per day, and 61 percent eat two or fewer servings of vegetables, well below the Center for Disease Control’s recommendation of five to eight daily servings. “By working with farmers, key county agencies and the community, the new venture will reach people where they live to increase consumption of healthy and locally produced food,” County Executive Ulman said.
“The Howard County Council fully supports this effort. It will provide everyone access to healthful, fresh food while also supporting our local farmers,” said Courtney Watson, Vice-Chairman of the County Council.
Ulman announced the program at a media event at Bridgeway Community Church in Columbia, which runs the Community Cupboard, one of the largest food distribution efforts in Howard County. The Task Force will be working with groups such as Bridgeway to increase the distribution of fresh, healthy food.
“Bridgeway has served our community and the surrounding areas through our Community Cupboard for two decades and we look forward to continuing to do so with the locally grown food from our own county,” said Senior Pastor David Anderson.
Executive Ulman also announced that the County has hired a Food Policy Director, Kelly Dudeck, to coordinate the effort. Dudeck previously worked as the Executive Director of the Maryland Agricultural Resource Council.
Members of the Howard County Food Policy Task Force are:
Owner, TLV Tree Farm and Member, Farmers Market Board
Director, Howard County Detention Center
Director, Howard County Department of Social Services
Julie Lenzer Kirk
Executive Director, Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship
Director, Master Gardeners Program, University of Maryland Extension
Director, Maryland Rural Enterprise Development Center
Owner, Breezy Willow Farm CSA
Program Director, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
Donald J. Darnall
Executive Director, Maryland Food Authority
Director, Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority
President, Howard County Community Action Council
CEO, Howard County Economic Development Authority
Director, Office of Human Services, Office of the Mayor, Baltimore City
President and CEO,
Maryland University of Integrative Health
Friends and Farms CSA
Owner and Executive Chef,
Elkridge Furnace Inn
President, Howard Community College
Store Manager, Wegmans in Columbia
Vice Chair, Howard County Environmental Sustainability Board
Michael J. Wilson
Director, Maryland Hunger Solutions
Director, Partners for Open Space
Elizabeth Edsall Kromm, Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs, Office of the County Executive
Director, Office of Environmental Sustainability
Nikki Highsmith Vernick
President and CEO, The Horizon Foundation