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Our View: Thumbs up for food trucks adapting, community gardens, high national ranking, McDonald’s charity

THUMBS UP: Who doesn’t love a good food truck? When Carroll County’s mobile eating establishments were hit with the coronavirus pandemic, there was some fear that things would never be the same once events were canceled and people were instructed to shelter in place and stay home. That didn’t stop the local food trucks and their catering companies from getting creative, and we’re glad they did. Like Daniel and Joan Smith, who own and operate It’s All Good out of Sykesville. Big events that they counted on for significant income were no more amid the pandemic, so Smith went to area neighborhoods and hooked up with local fire companies to provide food options. His commissary, set up in the Carroll County Circuit Court building in Westminster, became a small grocery store for essential employees to purchase deli meat by the pound, along with health and safety equipment. In one instance, Smith found himself with a substantial amount of food after a planned event fell through. He decided to set up shop at the bottom of his driveway, he told us, and “people just started rolling in.” We’re not back to normal yet when it comes to businesses, and it likely will take more time. But some restrictions are being lifted, and while many of our favorite summertime events are gone the food trucks that usually support them have being finding ways to survive.

THUMBS UP: We think Neighbors Nourishing Neighbors is a great idea for helping the county fight against food insecurity and connect gardeners with local food banks. A Carroll-based group has come together to create community-led gardens and make them into the main source for food pantries’ fresh produce. Elly Engle, an assistant professor of Environmental Studies at McDaniel College, told us the financial hardship caused by unemployment and the disruptions in supply chains were the immediate needs that prompted Neighbors Nourishing Neighbors to rise up. Paul Kazyak, one of the group’s organizing members, estimated about 50 gardens around Carroll have joined the cause. Earlier this month, Human Services Programs of Carroll County’s garden in Westminster served as a great example of how Neighbors Nourishing Neighbors is supposed to work. Produce grown there is distributed via area soup kitchens, food pantries, HSP’s shelters, and Second Chances. Other produce goes to the members of the organizations tending the plots. Volunteers from the Boys and Girls Club of Westminster watered and weeded the HSP garden. This is just one example of one community coming together to turn a garden into a sustainable food system, and it seems like a smart way to give people options during such an uncertain time.

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THUMBS UP: How does “fifth best in the country” sound to you? When the 2020 US Childhood Report published by Save the Children gave Carroll County that ranking for its aptitude at protecting and providing for its children, we thought that sounded pretty darn good. Save the Children is an international organization that advocates for children’s welfare and equity, so their finding goes a pretty long way. The report focused on inequities in the U.S. and evaluated factors such as childhood hunger, teenage pregnancy, graduation from high school and death in childhood, evaluating more than 2,600 counties in total. According to the report, 6.1% of children in Carroll live in poverty, there are 27.1 deaths out of every 100,000 children and 13.4% lack adequate access to food. The percentage of high-schoolers who do not graduate within four years is 2.5%. And out of 1,000 female teenagers ages 15-19, statistically 5.5 give birth, the report found. The data for the report was collected before the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the U.S. But the report also includes a “COVID-19 vulnerability score” based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index. The report gave Carroll almost the lowest possible — or best — COVID-19 vulnerability score: 0.04, out of 1.00. Of course, it’s never the right time to rest on our laurels when it comes to protecting our children; there’s always more that can and should be done. But make no mistake, this is a strong showing — No. 1 in Maryland — and it’s highly encouraging.

THUMBS UP: Those in charge of the McDonald’s in Eldersburg really showed their hearts recently. After months of being closed for upgrades and renovations, that location, at at 1722 Liberty Road, held a grand reopening. But owners Jeff Taylor and his wife, Rebecca decided to gift 100% of the proceeds to the Sykesville Freedom District Fire Department. By all accounts, it was a huge success, with the community showing strong support; Taylor said they must’ve had about 100 cars lined up for the grand reopening. The McDonald’s raised about $18,000 for the fire department. Taylor presented the money to Kevin Shiloh, president of Sykesville Freedom District Fire Department, who said the funds would be a big help, even if they wouldn’t match the amount that the department would have made with its carnival. “Definitely going to be an asset to us,” Shiloh told us. “Any funds we take in fundraising, to help recoup what we lost to our carnival, is greatly needed.” The funds donated by McDonald’s will go toward tools and equipment for the department, according to Shiloh. A local location of an international fast-food corporation shelling out to support a local fire company in a difficult time? I’m lovin’ it.

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