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on record for many of these businesses. “The crisis has undoubtedly driven a lot more interest in sources of food grown or raised and distributed close to home,” said Lindsay Smith, Regional Food Systems Value Chain Coordinator for the COG. Most food producing farms in the County have begun using online ordering platforms that allow customers to place orders ahead of time for pickup at farmers markets or on-farm, and several have begun home delivery for a nominal fee or with a minimum purchase. In part, these online platforms were introduced in response to the surge in customer drop-ins that several farms experienced at the outset of the pandemic. Farms reported people pulling up their cars to their greenhouses and fields when the farm was not open, and asking if they could purchase eggs, produce, or meat right on the spot. Though the newfound interest in direct farm purchases was encouraging, the need for a more organized, call-ahead system was evident. As peak growing season approached, many growers with on-farm markets that rely on drop in customers also added an online, pre-order option. “Online ordering and curbside pick up was born within a matter of days when we realized our community needed a way to grocery shop that was safe, convenient and local,” said Tyler Butler, General Manager of Butler’s Orchard. “[Spring] sales have been more than previous years. On busy curbside days we have seen between 150 and 200 orders.” On-farm markets are also limiting the number of in-person shoppers allowed in the market at a time, requiring shoppers to wear masks, and taking additional precautions to ensure that customers and staff stay healthy. The Montgomery County Food Council, Office of Agriculture, Visit Montgomery, and the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation have each released online resources that share information about local food pick-up and delivery options, and tens of thousands of visitors have flocked to these web pages between March and May. On the Office of Agriculture’s Twitter page, the hashtag “Local is the New Normal” serves as the ending to multiple posts. COVID-19 has underscored the reliance that our community has on the Agricultural Reserve, and the necessity of a resilient, interconnected, and accessible local food system. While financial hardships are still weighing heavily on most of these businesses, they are persevering thanks to County resident support. Despite the less-thanideal circumstances, this crisis has sparked innovation, collaboration, and determination within the MoCo Made community, a definitively positive outcome of this new normal. Catherine Nardi is the Programs and Policy Coordinator at the Montgomery County Food Council. She manages Food Council events and initiatives related to the MoCo Made brand, which serves to support the County’s vibrant local food and beverage producer community. Catherine has a B.A. in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland, and is currently pursuing an M.S. in Nutrition Education at American University. Strategies for Food Security in the Future As a result of COVID-19, thousands of County residents have been laid off, furloughed, or experienced other negative financial impacts. In order to meet the 75-500 percent projected increase in demand for food assistance in the County, the Food Council, local and regional partners, and the County government recognized a critical, immediate need to mobilize the local food system. A Food Security Task Force was established by the Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security in April under the leadership of County government and the Food Council with participation of over 140 community agencies, nonprofits, businesses, and residents. The Task Force released a “Response Strategy” in mid-May that detailed the County’s Food Security strategies for the period following the outbreak and subsequent economic crisis. Included in the Strategic Plan are extensive recommendations that specify how food producing farms can contribute to meeting the increasing needs of food assistance providers. These recommendations ensure that the 75+ food assistance organizations in the County can procure food for their clients in an economically sustainable manner, while also providing local farms and food businesses with new sales opportunities during a financially challenging time. Additionally, the recommendations ensure that food insecure residents in the County have increased access to fresh, high-quality, culturallyappropriate, and nutritious food during a time when eating right and staying healthy is so important. plenty I summer growing 2020 29