What a thrilling week! I was honored to be joined by my children last week as I was sworn in as a member of the Maryland General Assembly and we began the 439th Legislative Session. While most of the first week is full of ceremony and policy briefings, I have also begun working on my legislative initiatives.
Before I get into what I’ve been doing in Annapolis, I’m asking you to help others in our community who need our assistance. This weekend, I will be at the Manna Food Drive on Sunday, January 20, between 9am – 12pm at the White Oak Giant, 11221 New Hampshire Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20904. Manna Food Center feeds 3,200 hungry families a month. This effort is an essential part of keeping Manna’s shelves stocked and our Montgomery County neighbors fed throughout the winter months. Please come by to donate non-perishable food items. With the federal government shutdown, Manna and others are supporting even more people, so your support is more urgently needed.
This week I am introducing three bills to improve our local food system and address healthy food access. The Maryland Food for Maryland Institutions Act will move Maryland to increase the amount of locally grown food procured by Maryland institutions. The task force established by the act will review state procurement processes and work with farmers to identify the best way to accomplish these changes, which will strengthen the Maryland economy, decrease our carbon footprint, improve health, and preserve farmland.
I also introduced legislation to mandate funding for the Farms and Families Act, which doubles the value of federal nutrition benefits at farmers markets. This program increases access to fresh, local produce for Marylanders who are food insecure; puts more money in the pockets of farmers; and makes farmers markets financially viable in food deserts. It was was passed in 2017 but has not had stable funding – my bill will fix that.
The third bill I will introduce this week will enhance the State’s “Complete Streets” Program in two ways. First, my bill expands the definition of “Complete Streets” to encourage access routes to healthy food for people who live in a food desert and don’t have a personal vehicle. Second, my bill funds a grant program to match local funds for designing complete streets, thus expanding what this program can accomplish. Complete streets integrate people and place in our transportation networks, help ensure streets are safe for people of all ages and abilities, balance the needs of different modes of transportation, and support local land uses, economies, cultures, and natural environments.
I am also drafting bills related to climate and energy, police response to people in mental health crisis, and ending the school to prison pipeline. I will keep you informed about these and other crucial issues the General Assembly is considering in future communications.
As we approach the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, we remember and strive to live the values Dr. King taught. We carry on Dr King’s legacy here in Maryland as we fight for a $15 Minimum Wage for all Maryland workers. Click here to read about this legislation, which I’m proud to be supporting.
Please come by, call or write to me. My Annapolis office is Room 226 in the House Office Building at 6 Bladen Street in Annapolis and my office email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. My office phone number is 410-841-3423 and 301-858-3423.
Lorig Charkoudian Delegate, District 20 Maryland House of Delegates