State Senator Katie Fry Hester Announces the Grow It Forward Fund

State Senator Katie Fry Hester Announces the Grow It Forward Fund

A new collaborative partnership to help area farmers and food banks with a goal to raise $100,000 by August 1, 2020.

The Grow It Forward campaign aims to help meet the needs of food-insecure communities in the fall/winter months of 2020-2021 while simultaneously supporting the economic recovery of small, local farmers. Our goal is to raise $100,000 by August 1 and secure an additional 80,000 pounds of local food for local food pantries.

The partnership includes the Howard County Farm Bureau, Howard County Food Bank, Maryland Food Bank, and Howard County 4-H Extension, with discussions already underway to expand in Carroll County.

“I’ve been working on our State Institutions to buy local food for the past two years, because it has a multi-dimensional return:  it’s  good for our health, environment, economy – and it makes us more resilient,” said state Senator Katie Fry Hester, who serves district 9 which includes large parts of Howard and Carroll counties. “In addition to these benefits, the Grow It Forward campaign brings our community together  during these challenging times to help farmers and Marylanders struggling with food security –while giving our students a valuable experience. It really is a win for everyone!”

“Now more than ever, it is important that all families have access to fresh, nutritious food,” said Bita Dayhoff, president of Community Action Council which operates the Howard County Food Bank. “We are grateful for the Grow It Forward initiative, which will help us end hunger in Howard County with a focus on nutrition. From March through May, the Howard County Food Bank served more than 16,000 people…more than double who we would normally serve during this time. We are at the beginning of what will be a long road for many families, and all donations, no matter the size, make a profound impact on those who need it most.”

How does Grow It Forward work? 

Grow It Forward will grow, glean, process and preserve nutritious local food for Marylanders in need, while supporting local farm income and education. The anticipated outcome is an additional 80,000 pounds of local food for local food pantries, and investment in infrastructure to strengthen the economic capacity, sustainability, and resiliency of the local food supply chain. For example, through this program:

  • Maryland Food Bank volunteers glean local fields of participating farmers for any leftover produce.
  • Local farmers with high tunnels and greenhouses contract with Howard County Food Bank to grow specific crops for harvest in the fall and winter months.
  • Teams of students (such as those with 4H and Future Farmers of America) will engage in projects, raising egg-laying chickens, for instance, to support food banks.
  • Local Restaurants process and preserve excess food product for future use.

Once the produce is in our care, we mobilize our network of food banks, pantries and shelters to make sure that we get it to hungry Marylanders while it’s still fresh! 

Join the Grow It Forward campaign 

Are you a farmer, student  or volunteer organization interested in getting involved?  Please send us an email at

  • A local farmer interested in growing fall/winter food
  • A local farm who may have produce to glean this summer
  • A local FFA or 4H student interested in applying for a micro-grant to raise chickens for Food Bank Eggs
  • A restaurant interested in supporting the processing/storage of extra food
  • A volunteer organization interested in supporting food gleaning

Able you to contribute?  Grow It Forward has a donations page.

“As Farm to Food Bank Coordinator for the MD Food Bank, I am excited to learn of the launch of the Grow It Forward campaign,” stated Amy Cawley, Farm to Food Bank Coordinator. “This partnership will work to increase the current Farm to Food Bank program by enabling additional on-farm gleanings in Howard and Carroll County.   With the current pandemic the interest and need for locally produced food is the highest we have ever seen across Maryland. This partnership will be a win for local farmers, area food banks, and ultimately those receiving the food.”