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Two Maryland lawmakers and a local county executive are saying the state needs to do more to address a rise in hunger caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People are still hungry,” Sen. Katie Fry Hester told WTOP. “When I go by our local food bank or the Miller Branch Library on Saturdays, there’s a long line of cars — people still waiting to get food.

While signs of an economic recovery are evident — businesses are hiring, and many are offering signing bonuses and hiking wages to attract workers — Hester said, “We’re still on the tail end of this pandemic.”

Hester and Del. Lorig Charkoudian co-sponsored the legislation that created the Maryland Food System Resiliency Council. At the start of November, the council issued a report finding that demand for food assistance grew dramatically over the past 16 months: For example, food distribution at the Maryland Food Bank grew by 88%.

The report also found that farmers and food-related businesses saw demand for their goods plummet.

Hester and Charkoudian have written to the state’s Department of Budget and Management to request immediate and long-term funding to address hunger, including $20 million for emergency food distribution across the state.

“We felt in addition to the Maryland Food Bank and the Capital Area Food Bank, there are local organizations that are also distributing food, and who knows what they’re going to need for the span of 2022?,” Hester said.

The lawmakers are also looking for $3 million for cold storage to enable even small operators of food banks to store perishables.

‘The demand is not really going away’

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich also talked about the need to address the issue of food insecurity in a recent briefing with reporters. Elrich said he’d been having discussions with non-profits and food banks, and “What I’m hearing from everyone is, the demand is not really going away. They continue to see very large numbers of people still struggling to buy food and to meet their basic needs.”

Hester and Charkoudian are also working on legislation for the upcoming legislative session that will create a grant pilot program “to incentivize the production, procurement and provision of local foods in school meals.”

Hester said another bill would establish a competitive grant program for food banks and other charitable food providers to allow them to work with local farmers to support the purchase and processing of produce. “So if they get a ton of tomatoes, for example, they could process those tomatoes” for distribution at a later date.

“I’m very excited for our bill,” said Hester, who said the proposal would build “resiliency and food security all the way from our Maryland farms to the citizens of Maryland who need additional support.”

The Maryland Food System Resiliency Council was designed to be in effect for two years, and Hester said “at the end of the second year, the council will make a recommendation if and how it should go forward.”

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Change Ad Consent Do not sell my data Easy Swaps to Help Make Your Holidays Waste Free!

The holidays are a time for giving and celebrating, but it’s also a time of year where we produce an incredible amount of waste. It’s estimated that each American throws away about four pounds of trash per day and a staggering 300 pounds of food each year. During the holidays, Americans generate about 5 million tons of extra waste, with a large portion of that consisting of wrapping paper. And a recent survey found that we’re wasting over $9 billion on unwanted or unnecessary gifts every year.

Piles of gift wrap and ribbon end up on the floor, disposable items are used to help save time during kitchen cleanup, and countless gifts soon end up on a closet shelf or tucked away in a drawer. But what if we were able to make changes that could keep a lot of that waste out of our landfills? Making your holidays waste free is easier than you think, and it can all be done with a few easy swaps.

1. Reducing Gift Wrap Waste

Nathan Lemon/Unsplash

Shiny wrapping paper adds a festive look to your holiday gifts, but did you know that most wrapping paper can’t be recycled? Yes, it’s paper, but the laminated coating, glitter, and foil graphics make this product a no-go for your recycling bin. Most gift bags can’t be recycled either, all because of the laminated coating.

Ribbons and bows are another issue. Sure, they look pretty, but they can’t be recycled so they just end up in the trash. Instead of using items that generate waste, try these reusable and eco-friendly options instead:

  • Wrap gifts in plain, brown craft paper or old brown paper bags, both of which can be recycled.
  • Use newspaper and twine to wrap boxed gifts
  • Wrap small gifts in colorful cloth napkins or embroidered handkerchiefs from the thrift store. You can also find reusable cotton bags printed with soy-based inks.
  • Reuse gift boxes and bows that you already have, then save them to reuse the following year
  • Use plain, uncoated cotton string or twine in place of ribbon. Make sure it’s free of metallics and coatings so it can be placed in your compost bin.
2. Choosing Thoughtful, Waste-Free Gifts

Erikka van Rujssen/Flickr

Gifts are a favorite part of any holiday or celebration, but how often do we give people things they don’t really want or need, just for the sake of giving? Instead of heading to the store to find gifts, think about handmade items or those that provide people with a memorable experience.

  • Use homemade lotions, face or body scrubs, and bath bombs to create a “spa day” kit
  • Make a quilt from old t-shirts or scraps of fabric
  • Visit a local craft fair to find unique, handmade gifts
  • Give the gift of entertainment with passes to a museum, state park, or botanical garden, or tickets to a movie theater or live performance
  • Package homemade treats like cookies and candy in glass jars or reusable boxes
3. Decorating the Eco-Friendly Way

You can have a beautifully decorated home without contributing to landfill waste. When choosing decorations, use what you have first, then choose additional items wisely. Stay away from items like tinsel and glitter, which end up polluting the environment and harming marine life.

  • Decorate with natural elements like pine cones and twigs
  • Create a warm, inviting atmosphere with handmade or soy-based candles in reusable glass jars
  • Choose sustainably sourced trees and greenery instead of buying artificial versions made from plastic
  • Visit thrift stores to find traditional holiday items instead of purchasing them brand new
4. Making Your Holiday Meals Waste Free

Le living and Co/Flickr

Overall, approximately 40 percent of food is wasted in the U.S. each year. In addition to that, holiday meal planning produces large amounts of trash from disposable packaging, containers, plates, and silverware.  Help keep your mealtime green by following these tips:

  • Choose the package-free route by purchasing holiday staples like grains, dried fruits, nuts, and candy from bulk bins at grocery stores.
  • Use a dinner party calculator to help you make just the right amount of food for your holiday meals. Choose to make plant-based dishes help lower the impact of your food choices.
  • Ask guests to bring reusable containers with them to take home leftovers instead of having them go to waste.
  • Use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins and towels, and real plates, glasses, and silverware instead of disposables
  • Compost all food scraps and other organic materials instead of tossing them in the trash

Creating a waste-free holiday doesn’t mean sacrificing fun and tradition. And you can feel good knowing that you’re doing something to help reduce waste and protect our natural resources from pollution.

For more Life, Animal, Vegan Food, Health, and Recipe content published daily, don’t forget to subscribe to the One Green Planet Newsletter!

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