Hunger is an often underestimated and overlooked cause of depression, anxiety, stress, and poor concentration. According to the Alliance to End Hunger, our food-insecure elderly community has higher rates of health problems, decreased resistance to infection, and extended hospital stays. Hunger also increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes among adults, and children who are hungry are more likely to have behavioral problems. Then there is a question of the quality of food available; the lack of access to fresh and healthy options is a silent killer of millions of Americans across the nation.

Andy Pierre, Executive Director of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland (LinkedIn Photo)
Andy Pierre, Executive Director of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland (LinkedIn Photo)

Not every family who lives more than a quarter mile away from a market that carries fresh fruits and vegetables has access to a bus system to help with the trip. Many live in rural communities with no access to a vehicle, so they have to walk to the nearest grocery store, sometimes a mile away, because they do not have access to a bus line. Then after all the traveling, some people end up purchasing fruits and vegetables that go bad in two or three days. This exacerbates the obesity problem because for someone on a tight budget, a balanced diet is a fiscal strain. This leads a large swath of our working poor to spend their money on highly processed foods, laden with harmful preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, and fatty acids.

Food deserts are not just a Baltimore City problem. Families from counties such as Wicomico and Allegany are living in food deserts or suffering from food insecurity. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to food deserts. Some of the initiatives that could help include re-outfitting small convenience stores with the proper equipment and education so they can make fresh fruits and vegetables available, increased support for urban food hubs and farmers markets, and serving Maryland-grown produce in after-school and summer programs.

The members of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland and Maryland’s Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities hosted an educational luncheon, on March 1 in Annapolis to discuss access to healthy foods with community leaders and stakeholders from around the state. It is going to take a multi-pronged approach to solve Maryland’s food access problem and the members of the Legislative Black Caucus are in it for the long haul. Over the interim, the Black Caucus plans to hold work sessions on Food Access in order to prepare solid legislation for next session.

Medical Cannabis

Hearings were held last week on the Medical Cannabis legislation introduced by Delegate Cheryl D. Glenn and cross-filed by Senator Joan Carter Conway in the Health and Government Operations (House) and Judicial Proceedings (Senate) committees. Members of the Medical Cannabis Commission, stakeholders, legislators, and families shared their testimonies with the committee members. The committee heard testimony from Billy Murphy, lawyer, former State’s Attorney Stuart Simms, and Delegate Cheryl Glenn on the pieces of legislation designed to increase the number of grower’s licenses and provide oversight to the Medical Cannabis Commission by making it a division under the Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, requiring appointments to the Commission to be confirmed by the Senate, and that the Commission shall reflect the racial diversity of the state. Further the legislation prohibits commissioners from working for a Medical Cannabis company for two years after their term has ended.

Coming up

On March 21, the members of the Legislative Black Caucus will be hosting the “HBCUs Night in Annapolis” starting at 6 p.m. in Conference Room West of the Miller Senate Building, 11 Bladen St, Annapolis, Md. 21401. The event will be attended by Presidents, students, and alumnus of Maryland’s four HBCUs: Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Bowie State University and University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

Andy Pierre is the Executive Director of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland.