With your help, last year Maryland created the Maryland Food for Maryland Institutions Study Group whose goal has been to increase the amount of locally grown food procured by Maryland institutions, providing more market opportunities for our local farming community. Out of that diverse network of stakeholders, came the idea to establish the two important initiatives outlined in HB1488/SB985:
- Certified Local Farmer Enterprise Program
This voluntary program allows state institutions to contact local farms that meet certain environmental standards. This will help build relationships between farms and institutions, like hospitals and schools, in an effort to better support our local farming community.
- Food Aggregation Grant Fund
The fund would support existing value-added food processing facilities in order to make it easier for smaller, local farms to get their produce to institutions in Maryland.
Local food procurement by state institutions, especially hospitals, will allow its clients, staff, and patients to have improved access to healthier institutional meals that utilize fresh, nutrient-rich, local produce. It’s especially critical that hospitals have access to healthy, locally-grown, nutrient-dense food during this crisis. Food can have a profound impact on one’s immune system, and it’s important that we find ways to support this in our hospitals, whether it be our healthcare workers on the frontlines on this pandemic or those battling COVID-19.