Connected DMV conducts first event in series of regional public-private crisis exercises, focused on enhancing regional collaboration to better serve food-insecure communities
WASHINGTON, DC, December 10, 2020 – On December 3, the Capital Area Food Bank hosted the first Connected DMV Regional Resilience Exercise event, a digital workshop focused on optimizing food distribution to the region’s most vulnerable communities during pandemic conditions.
This workshop delivered upon a recommendation approved on June 18, 2020, by the COVID-19 Strategic Renewal Task Force to launch a series of cross-sector Regional Resilience Exercises in coordination with regional partners. This is one of twelve regional initiatives focused on economic renewal and social equity launched by the Task Force and being delivered by Connected DMV. For more information, read the COVID-19 Strategic Renewal Task Force Report, released on December 8.
Based on lessons learned during the Spring 2020 COVID-19 outbreak, Connected DMV and the Capital Area Food Bank convened the leaders of 20 food relief organizations operating across DC, suburban Maryland, and Northern Virginia. Stakeholders represented food banks, food distribution centers, food councils, K-12 schools, beneficiary service and advocacy organizations, the public sector, and partnership experts. Participants discussed ways to improve regional collaboration, highlighting the need for increased data and best-practice sharing, coordinating planning and decision making, enhancing public outreach, and optimizing regional assets and services for logistics and distribution. The leaders present acknowledged the importance of establishing strategic partnerships to address these challenges in advance of an emergency.
Participants addressed opportunities across strategy, policy, and operations, identifying several areas for further action. One specific suggestion is to expand the Capital Area Food Bank’s publicly available Hunger Heat Map to include data from organizations outside of its direct distribution network and add supplemental analysis to improve visibility and insight into regional food access and distribution dynamics. Participants stressed the importance of local community empowerment and effectively engaging with diverse beneficiaries while seeking to optimize regional food supply and distribution.
Connected DMV, the Capital Area Food Bank, and other regional partners are planning next steps, including a comprehensive exercise to take place in Spring/Summer 2021 to determine specific solutions for regional data sharing, coordinated food supply chain operations, strategic partnership formation, and ecosystem governance.
“During these extraordinary times, the importance of forward-thinking, cross-sector collaboration in our metro area has never been more clear or more urgent. Building a more resilient and inclusive region that can withstand future crises starts with building greater food security, and getting there will require increased partnerships between food providers of all types and local governments, joint advocacy, broader information sharing, and increased engagement with stakeholders at the community level. The more we prepare together and speak as one regional voice, the greater the benefit for all who call our region home," said Radha Muthiah, Capital Area Food Bank President & CEO
Heather Bruskin, Executive Director, Montgomery County Food Council, added: “Strategic coordination of food security initiatives across Montgomery County has been essential in ensuring as many residents as possible are supported by our County’s diverse network of over 120 community provider organizations. The need for thoughtful and creative coordination doesn't end at our County's borders. Connecting with partners throughout the region is critical to the success of short-term food access programs, as well as long-term strategic planning for a more resilient, sustainable, and equitable food system."
The workshop was moderated by Dr. James Witte, Professor of Sociology & Anthropology, Director of the Center for Social Science Research, and Director of the Institute for Immigration Research at George Mason University. Many thanks to staff from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and APCO Worldwide for their assistance in designing this event.
For questions about Regional Resilience Exercises, please contact George Thomas (firstname.lastname@example.org), VP of Innovation & Strategic Initiatives.