Food system coalition a bold move (Editorial)

(March 8, 2016) The effort to establish what is called the Mid-Shore Food System Coalition is taking hold on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
It has been funded, by a foundation grant to Chesapeake College, for 2016, and it is the intent of those involved at this point, in launching the project and to begin naming members of the coalition, its core group, in April.
As its title suggests, the focus will be food availability and the relief of hunger and poverty across the five state Mid-Shore area.
Neoma Rohman, of Easton, Md., is the organization’s director.
She noted, in introducing the coalition that the Mid-Shore of Maryland is the heart of our state’s agricultural economy.
Taken together, the Mid-Shore counties of Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot comprise only 21.8 percent of Maryland’s land mass, only 3 peercent of its population, yet contains 31.6 percent of the state’s farmland.
Culturally, Rohman said, the Eastern Shore of Maryland has “a unique identity that emphasizes independence, isolation, small communities, rural landscapes, and a rich heritage of both agriculture and commercial fisheries.” However, she noted, indications of hunger and food insecurity in the region, coupled with indicators of diet related disease and mortality make plain the opportunity for improvements in the regional food system.
Such improvements, she suggested, might include changes to regional and state policies about food and agriculture, better networking between producers and consumers, and increased education about food, nutrition, and local economics.
For example, Rohman said, there exists a Talbot County Hunger Coalition.
The effort could be to knit it together with similar organizations in the other four counties, making it regional and then, she suggested, more susceptible to federal or state or foundation grants.
More than a food policy council, and more than a regional agricultural voice, the MSFSC seeks “to knit together concerns from all stakeholders in the food system, with the goal of enacting changes that benefit all parties.”
The formation of a Food System Coalition is envisioned as “a strategic body that identifies, prioritizes, and coordinates food-system improvements in the five-county Mid-Shore region,” Rohman said. “The coalition will consist of a constellation of talents and efforts to build, strengthen, and sustain the Mid-Shore, its community and its authenticity.”
It is a bold adventure.
Food insecurity and hunger are seldom apparent in the comfortable confines of the Mid-Shore, but they are there, despite the immense broad scope of food production in the area. (And, it should be noted, despite the bounty of fresh produce which adorns the display areas in the local supermarkets and which, if not sold, usually ends up as compost in the county dumps.)
The job of the Mid-Shore Food System Coalition starts with the farmers and spreads out from there to anyone involved in distribution, marketing, preparation or any occupation touching on the subject of food.
We look forward to it helping them all.