The Compass - August eNews from Baltimore Planning

Image of produce with Compass Logo
The Compass is a monthly eNewsletter of the Baltimore City Department of Planning.

August, 2014

A Message from the Director…

I am pleased to present this month’s Compass highlighting the work of the Baltimore Food Policy Initiative (BFPI), which has been housed in the Office of Sustainability in Planning since its creation four years ago. Food policy is cross disciplinary and intersects many agencies and divisions. As a department we’re incorporating food access thinking into research, comprehensive planning, community planning and land use, and who knows, one day we may even tackle food in relation to historic preservation.

On July 31st, a 68,000 square foot ShopRite Supermarket, the largest in the City, opened on Liberty Heights Road in Howard Park, a neighborhood that lacked a grocery store for 15 years. After tremendous work by community organizations, The Mayor’s Office, Planning, the Baltimore Development Corporation and so many others, residents will now have access to a beautiful store full of food, products and health services customized specifically to meet their needs. We could not be happier to see this project come to fruition.

To truly affect the food environment, we have to start from the ground up, and that’s what we as planners do. I am excited to announce that the City will release the newly updated Food Access Map at the end of the summer. In addition to the multitude of other policy and programmatic purposes, this map will be used to strategically locate stores and development to see the most impact on food access. Stay tuned for the launch of this map in September.

Thomas J. Stosur, Director

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“Giving Our Region a Chance”

Attend the Opportunity Collaborative Community Summit –  RSVP Today!

The Opportunity Collaborative has been bringing together government, universities, businesses, non-profits, and community partners from across the Baltimore region - including Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City and County, Carroll County, Harford County, and Howard County - to create a vision for a better Baltimore.

Focused on housing, transportation, and workforce development, members have been working on strategies to make sure that every person and community can connect to the many resources available in greater Baltimore.

On Saturday, September 6, 9:00 AM – 1:30 PM, the Opportunity Collaborative will be hosting a community summit designed to get your input on how we can give everyone in our region a chance.

Workshops, small group sessions, and scenario exercises will allow participants to truly engage with the findings of the Collaborative thus far, as well as to share your knowledge and ideas for improving our regional plans. Learn about the regional housing plan, the opportunities and challenges that we face, potential investment initiatives, and more - and then tell us what you think!

Lunch will be provided, as well as a continental breakfast. The event is free, and all are welcome. Please join us, and share this invitation with everyone you know.


  • Coppin State Physical Education Complex
  • Gwynn Falls Parkway and Warwick Avenue, Baltimore


  • Saturday, September 6th
  • 9:00 AM – 1:30 PM

The event is free.  Please RSVP here!


Fun Food Image of Frogs made of veggies

Get Fresh Kids tries to make healthy food fun, with some fresh made food frogs.

Strategies for a Changing Food Environment

The food retail environment of Baltimore City has seen significant changes this summer. With four grocery store closures and three new stores opening, many residents have felt immediate effects on their ability to access food.  Supermarkets are anchors in a community.  When a store departs, it leaves an immediate need for creative short-term fixes to get food to residents, as well as a need for a long-term solution to fill the storefront. When a new supermarket opens, it creates possibilities for partnerships and strategic interventions around healthy food availability.

Stock Image of produce section in a grocery store

As one part of a comprehensive approach to better respond to and anticipate these store fluctuations, the City created The Baltimore Food Policy Initiative (BFPI). This intergovernmental collaboration housed in the Office of Sustainability is comprised of Planning, the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC), and the Health Department (BCHD). Working together, the City takes a multifaceted approach to policies and programs that address the barriers to and opportunities for improving food access.

Understanding how supermarkets in urban areas face unique circumstances, BFPI developed a Food Desert Retail Strategy to preempt and respond to food access challenges. This strategy is a catalyst to address the health, employment, and economic disparities that exist in food deserts and will utilize four key approaches:

  • Expand and Retain Quality Grocery Stores,
  • Create Grocery Job Training Opportunities,
  • Support Food Entrepreneurism, and
  • Create a Healthy Corner Store Initiative.

Image of Mayor with group of children at Shop Rite Opening

The Mayor celebrates the opening of a new Shop Rite in Howard Park, with enthusiastic residents and children.

In addition to supporting supermarkets, these strategies seek to improve the whole food environment – from farmers markets to corner stores to food trucks – to ensure diverse opportunities for accessing affordable healthy food.

To enact these strategies, Baltimore City has created staff positions dedicated to food access. This spring, two new positions were filled specifically to bring multiple perspectives to food access and retail – Sarah Buzogany, a Food Access Planner in the Planning Department and Michael Snidal, a Food Retail Economic Development Officer at BDC. These employees, along with the Food Access Coordinator at the Health Department, work together to support the City’s goals by ensuring that food retail and food access issues are addressed from all angles.

SNAP at Baltimore Farmers Market and Bazaar

This summer, farmers at the Baltimore Farmers Market and Bazaar (BFMB) became some of the first in the country to accept SNAP (formerly food stamp) benefits via smartphone technology. Nearly 30% of Baltimore City residents receive SNAP benefits, and as the largest farmers market in Baltimore, it is essential that it is easy to spend SNAP dollars on healthy foods at BFMB. BFPI has worked closely with the Maryland Farmers Market Association (MDFMA) and the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts (BOPA) on the launch of this program.

Image of SNAP Purchase using Mobile App on Smartphone

As SNAP customers spend their benefits, each dollar is matched 1-to-1, up to $10 per week, in electronic Maryland Market Money (formerly Bonus Bucks). BFMB is the largest farmers market in the country to use this technology and vendors can accept SNAP, credit, debit, and Maryland Market Money individually at their stalls, with no cost of entry. MDFMA secured federal funding for this transition and is training all vendors and the market manager on implementing the program.

The BFMB is open every Sunday, 7:00am to12:00pm, April through December, underneath the Jones Falls Expressway at Holliday and Saratoga Streets.

Homegrown Baltimore Employee Wellness CSA

Image of staff sorting veggies for CSA

Last month Mayor Rawlings-Blake was joined by Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Buddy Hance to celebrate the new Homegrown Baltimore Workplace Wellness CSA as part of the Buy Local Challenge.

The community supported agriculture (CSA) model connects consumers directly to farmers through a weekly share of fresh vegetables and fruits that the consumer pays for at the beginning of the season.

Baltimore City has taken that model and linked it to employee wellness by having two local farmers deliver shares directly to City offices once per week from June through November. Through the Managerial and Professional Society of Baltimore (MAPS), our City is the first to include CSA shares as a reimbursable expense under a health and welfare reimbursement. MAPS employees can now choose to use their reimbursement on any CSA, including the City’s program.

Nearly 150 people have signed up for the CSA, with new participants joining each week. Many employees have reported trying new vegetables for the first time and are sharing recipes with colleagues.

If you, or someone you know is a City employee, it’s not too late to sign up for the 2014 CSA! For more information, contact Joanna Winkler, CSA coordinator at

Get Fresh Kids Logo and Link to Page

Get Fresh Kids at Lexington Market

Lexington Market offers a wide variety of prepared foods, fresh produce, meat, seafood and specialty items right in downtown Baltimore. BFPI has been working with Lexington Market vendors for several years to increase the availability of healthy options at the market and highlight these healthier choices. Realizing that the thousands of kids that visit the market each year had few healthy options geared towards them, BFPI and Lexington Market launched Get Fresh Kids (GFK) this spring.

Nine vendors now offer healthy kids meals as part of GFK. Kids can order a child-friendly entrée portion with a side of fruit or vegetables, and a choice of water, milk or 100% fruit juice for under $5. To pair these healthy options with nutrition lessons, GFK holds monthly fruit and vegetable art workshops. Kids can make art with healthy foods like grapes and cabbage and have the chance to taste new fruits and vegetables, while parents and care givers learn a short nutrition message and get fun ideas for introducing new healthy foods to their families.