Strong Communities

Mayor Rawlings-Blake and children at the opening of the Morrell Park Community Center

Originally appeared in The Rawlings-Blake Review issue #212

For many Baltimore City residents, gaining access to quality, nutritious food can be an insurmountable challenge. Approximately 1 in 5 Baltimore City residents face some sort of food access barrier. Even worse is the fact that children and seniors are disproportionately affected. But I remain committed to strengthening our communities by increasing food access for all residents.

That’s why this week, in partnership with ShopRite, we relaunched our Virtual Supermarket Program in the Cherry Hill community. This innovative initiative allows residents to order groceries online and have them delivered to select sites with no additional fees. This is the first community-based program in the COUNTRY to accept EBT/SNAP benefits (food stamps) for online grocery ordering and delivery. This is really going to help make Baltimore healthier!

We are so blessed to have ShopRite as a devoted partner in this effort. Last week, they helped organize a “Goods for Guns” gun buy-back event, where they asked people to surrender their firearms for an opportunity at a more positive future. And yesterday, we celebrated the grand opening of a brand new ShopRite in Howard Park.

A longtime food desert, Shop Rite of Howard Park is the community’s first grocery since 1999. This is a major victory for a neighborhood that has been fighting for a high quality grocer for years. Any true community food access approach is multi-dimensional—and this store is the epitome of that.

ShopRite has customized its selection of foods, household products, and services specifically for local Howard Park residents. And ShopRite has stepped up in the community by helping to construct a kitchen classroom at Calvin Rodwell Elementary School for the school’s culinary arts program. The kitchen will further this nationally recognized program and continue empowering students not only to cook nutritious, healthy meals, but also, down the road, to leverage those skills into a career.

I am so grateful that we can work together to improve the health and wellbeing of all our city’s residents—especially our most vulnerable populations. We will keep working to find sustainable solutions to the challenges we face in building better neighborhoods.

Of course, another key to building our city is to provide our young people with constructive activities that promote healthy lifestyles. A majority of our city’s recreation centers were constructed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and many haven’t seen updates since. On Monday, we celebrated the grand opening of the Morrell Park Community Center—our first community center built from the ground up in nearly a decade! This green, state-of-the-art Community Center features a fully stocked gymnasium, a fitness room, and a wonderful outdoor green space, and more.

The Morrell Park Community Center is part of our larger plan to transition the city’s aging recreation centers into a new network of high-quality community centers. My administration will continue to do all we can to improve Baltimore’s recreation centers and pools in the coming months and years. In mid-year 2016, we plan to have the Cherry Hill Community Center completed. And in the coming months, my administration will propose legislation to push the sale of City parking garages to generate as much as $60 million in additional revenue to further support our aging recreation infrastructure.

We have more work to do, but we will not stop until all of Baltimore’s residents have exceptional food access and quality recreation opportunities. Together, I know we can do it.

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