Mason-Dixon Community Services, The Harford Center and the Harford County Department of Community Services have partnered to help reduce so-called "food deserts" in northern Harford through a mobile food pantry.
The program is running now and will run through at least September 2017 with $5,000 furnished in support through the Harford County Department of Community Services, a county government spokesperson said.
A food desert is an area where residents lack access to fresh fruits, vegetables and healthy options – preferably local products, and also don't have consistent public access including transportation, walking convenience, and daily hours of operation, according to a news release.
Even though the northern Harford area is known for its agricultural economy, it is also considered one of the county's largest food deserts, according to the release. Many northern Harford families and seniors are homebound and may not possess a car or have other means of transportation. Many would need to travel a considerable distance to reach a grocery store, produce stand or other support services.
Mason-Dixon Community Services, a non-profit social services organization with offices in northern Harford and southeastern York counties, has been working to address obstacles to access healthy food for more than decade. Each year they help thousands of individuals and families with a variety of essential and emergency services.
Recently Mason-Dixon Executive Director Tori Dietrich conceived an idea to start a mobile food pantry which would deliver healthy food to the doorsteps of homebound customers. To make the concept a reality, however, they needed volunteers and a van to make deliveries.
Dietrich sought help from The Harford Center, a day habilitation and supported employment program for adults with disabilities, and a co-tenant in the Highland Commons Building in Street. The Harford Center had a van, and a group of willing and able individuals seeking job training and employment to support the effort.
Harford Center participants will be paid through the grant provided by Harford County Community Services to deliver nutritious and delicious meals to at-risk individuals, according to the release.
Deliveries will be made every two weeks and will be provided in Street, Whiteford, White Hall, Jarrettsville, Forest Hill, Darlington, Dublin and northern Havre de Grace.
To learn more about the mobile food pantry, or to apply for services, contact Dietrich at 410-452-9025 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
"My administration is eager to support this innovative partnership, which provides employment for adults with disabilities and vital services to food-insecure residents in Harford County," Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said in a statement. "The program exemplifies what can be accomplished when organizations collaborate to overcome challenges for our citizens."
"Harford County is unique in its ability to form partnerships to provide the highest quality of care to its residents," Dietrich said. "We are proud to offer this new service through the Highland, Maryland office. This venture sets the stage for a beautiful partnership and creates a sense of community in the truest sense of the word……neighbors helping neighbors."
"The Glassman administration is pleased to support this program, which is a win-win for the community," county government spokesperson Cindy Mumby said.
"The funding allows Mason-Dixon to employ citizens with disabilities who are the clients of The Harford Center," she continued. "These clients learn valuable job skills – packing groceries, loading the delivery vehicle, making deliveries – and in turn serve their fellow citizens who are homebound, including those with disabilities and the elderly."