PLENTY SUMMER 2020 | Page 27

Food Responders are on the move farmers markets began accepting and distributing orders for food boxes comprised of produce, dairy products, and baked goods from market vendors. “It has been an honor to support many local farms and artisanal producers from Central Farm Markets while serving the needs of our community,” said Josh Carin, who partnered with the Bethesda Central Farm Market to organize orders from market vendors and deliver thousands of “Farm to Fridge” boxes throughout Bethesda and the surrounding area. Many other small businesses in the Montgomery County Food Council’s MoCo Made program implemented creative changes, too, to keep up with the food industry trends that are keeping the lights on. The MoCo Made program, first launched by the Food Council in Fall 2017 in partnership with the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation, includes more than 75 local food and beverage businesses and farms, and ofby catherine nardi Beginning in February, Mike Houston, General Manager of the Takoma Park Silver Spring Co-op, watched with growing concern as thousands of customers packed into his small store day in and day out, stocking up on staples like beans, pasta, and of course, toilet paper. The store’s sales rose by close to 50 percent between mid-February and mid- March, but as sales increased, Mike only grew more wary of the situation, worried about the health of his employees and loyal patrons. On March 23rd, the Co-op made the difficult decision to close its doors to customers, and on March 28th, the store launched an online ordering and curbside pick-up system that would enable shoppers to continue patronizing the Co-op without any contact. By mid-May, roughly 7,500 orders had been fulfilled using this innovative, first-of-its-kind model, wherein Co-op staff members serving as personal shoppers are the only ones allowed in the store. Although sales dropped significantly, Mike and his team do not regret closing the physical store. “Being able to get our customers groceries, support our local farms and small producers, and do so in a safe environment for everyone is our number one goal right now,” said Mike. This new way of doing business is simply their new normal. The Co-op is just one of hundreds of Montgomery County food businesses that pivoted their operations to accommodate social distancing guidelines and stay-athome orders, protect their customers and staff, and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some restaurants and bakeries, like Founding Farmers, the Red Bandana Bakery, and Mastiha Bakery, began offering grocery items, such as vegetables and eggs, for their customers to pick up alongside their orders. Various restaurants throughout the County offered reducedprice or free meals to healthcare workers, first responders, and students, and select restaurants partnered with local organizations like Shepherd’s Table to provide meals to residents experiencing homelessness. Mayorga Organics donated approximately 20,000 pounds of coffee, lentils, beans, and rice to local food assistance providers between March and June to bolster the food assistance response efforts. Several County plenty I summer growing 2020 27