From the County Council Office of Valerie Ervin

The Challenge Isn't Over 

Continuing the Momentum to SNAP the Silence of Poverty 



Following Poverty in America Awareness Month in January, I joined with hundreds of non-profit providers, residents, elected leaders, and community activists to "SNAP the Silence" about poverty and hunger by spending no more than $5 per day for our food budgets. This amount is comparable to the assistance eligible residents receive under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Check out the WUSA9 story and video about the effort.


Formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, SNAP supports those whose wages are too low to lift them out of poverty, helping them put food on the table.  In October 2012, approximately 65,200 County residents participated in the SNAP program.  While the challenge was in no way similar to the struggles encountered by low-income working families, it provided a new perspective and greater understanding for many who took the challenge. It also sparked a renewed interest in how to end poverty and hunger in our community.


I am humbled by the outpouring of support we received from the hundreds of residents who temporarily left their comfort zones to better understand the struggles that many of our neighbors face on a daily basis.  Above all, I am energized by the coalition we have formed-including elected officials, non-profit food providers, students, religious groups, and local organizers-that is committed to turning our momentum into action.


On the last night of the SNAP challenge this coalition gathered to discuss how we can work at the local level to impact social policy.  


Under my leadership, we lobbied to increase funding for universal breakfast programs at the state level; because of those efforts, next year 57,000 additional Maryland students will receive free breakfast each day at school.


I have also worked to expand participation and meals for our students through the Summer Food Program, where 9,000 students receive 320,000 meals at 100 locations throughout the county.  A dozen of these locations are walk-in sites where students do not have to be engaged in other programs to receive a meal. 


We plan to lobby our Federal officials to keep much needed SNAP benefits intact.  The efforts of some in Congress to alter the Farm Bill and impending cuts through sequestration seriously threaten the SNAP program. 


We are investing in community gardens and helping local farmers markets get registered to accept SNAP benefits.


Through my efforts, Montgomery County is also taking steps to create a county-wide Food Recovery Initiative, where we would create a network to collect surplus food that would otherwise be wasted and redistribute it to those in need.  This is the first and only known jurisdiction-wide food recovery initiative in the country.


Finally, we are advancing initiatives to fight other related elements of poverty, including affordable housing, accessibility to reliable transportation and transit, and increasing the minimum wage.


To stay involved follow Snap the Silence on Facebook and on Twitter with @ValerieErvin using #SNAPtheSilence


In 1966, Sargent Shriver, who was President Johnson's Director of the War on Poverty said, "Most wars are declared by old men, but fought by the young.  But our war on poverty asks everyone to get into the fight."


We are fighting our own war on poverty right here in Montgomery County.  Our challenge has only just begun. 



Thank you for your continued support!

Valerie Ervin  

Valerie Ervin 

Advocacy Pays Off: Increase in State Funding for Universal Breakfast



Since 2007, my legislative priorities have focused on food and nutrition.  Providing nutritious meals is one of the most immediate and cost-effective ways to improve a child's health and performance in the classroom.  In Montgomery County, more than one out of every seven children is at risk of hunger.  Over the last three academic years, the number of children qualifying for free or reduced-price meals in the county has increased more than 25 percent with more than 47,000 children now falling below 185 percent of the federal poverty level. 


In January, I joined with members of the Maryland General Assembly, the Maryland Partnership to End Childhood Hunger, Montgomery County Board of Education, and Share Our Strength's No Kind Hungry Campaign to advocate for expanded funding for the Maryland Meals for Achievement (MMFA) Program. I was ecstatic when Governor Martin O'Malley recommended budget contained an additional $1.8 million in the FY14 Maryland State Department of Education budget to fund universal breakfast, another example of how he continues to provide the building blocks necessary for the success of our children. This means an additional 56,896 children in Maryland could receive the benefit in schools across Maryland.   

Maryland Meals for Achievement is a national model for increasing access to the School Breakfast Program (SBP), with proven links to improved educational performance, health and behavior. It allows schools that have at least 40 percent of their student population eligible for free or reduced-price meals (FARMS) to provide universal, in-classroom breakfast.  In MMFA schools, the average participation in school breakfast is close to 70 percent, which is significantly higher than school breakfast participation in non-MMFA schools.


The groundswell of support from elected officials, including letters from the Montgomery and Prince George's County delegations, illustrates how much of an impact this program has on the lives of children.  I am thankful for the many partners we have at the federal and state levels to support summer food and universal breakfast in Montgomery County, and I am extremely hopeful that the General Assembly will fund the Governor's recommendation in the budget.

Joint Community Meeting with Councilmember Muriel Bowser  



As a result of redistricting changes made last year, District 5 shares borders with Howard County, Prince George's County and the District of Columbia.  While the changes may be relatively new, I have long coordinated and worked collaboratively with my counterparts in neighboring jurisdictions on issues that impact residents who reside near these borders.


On January 14, D.C. Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser and I co-hosted a joint community meeting at Shepherd Elementary School in Northwest Washington.  The residents of Silver Spring and the District share many of the same issues, and this meeting was a great way to discuss constituent concerns and answer questions.


Together we explored common issues that impact our jurisdictions, including dog parks; green space; the 16th Street Traffic Circle; parking; development; and the Metropolitan Branch Trail.  This community meeting was a follow-up to a discussion we had recently when they were on a County Cable Montgomery (CCM) show called "No Boundaries."


We have already acted on one of the issues that emerged during our meeting by transmitting a joint letter urging the District, County, and State to work together to expedite the completion of the 16th Street Traffic Circle.

Supporting Measures to Curb Gun Violence


On February 6, I testified before the Maryland Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee on Senate Bill 281: Fire Arm Safety Act of 2013 (  You can read the full text of my testimony the county web site.

Black History Month



As you know, February is Black History Month, which recognizes and remembers the people and events in the history of the African Diaspora.  This year is particularly special, as it marks the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.  On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, setting the U.S. on a path to end slavery.  The Emancipation proclamation paved the way for African Americans to make major impacts in the building of America, but it was only part of the struggle for equality in this country.  One century later, in 1963, more than 200,000 Americans gathered for the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom," calling for African American civil and economic rights.


According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, Montgomery County became a majority-minority county for the first time with more than 16 percent of the population identified as black, which is an increase of 25 percent from the previous decade.  Black Americans have contributed significantly to the growth and development of the nation, and to Montgomery County, through distinguished leadership in every field of human endeavor. 


On February 5, I joined with other leaders in the county to commemorate Black History Month.  Thanks to those who joined me, including Tina Clarke; Charlotte Coffield; Elbridge James; Daniel Koroma; Julian Norment; Craig Rice; Vernon Ricks; Darlene Roots-Douglas; Ruby Rubens; Odessa Shannon; and Shirl Spicer.

Enhancing Security in Schools

As Education Chair, I know that providing a safe learning environment for our children is one of the most basic functions of local government. Four years ago, the Board requested, and the Council approved, funding in the Capital Improvements Program (CIP) to install school security systems over several years, with completion scheduled in FY14. This project, currently scheduled to be completed by the end of the next school year, includes access control systems, camera systems, and visitor management systems.

 In response to community concerns, the Council President and I sent a letter to the Board of Education President Christopher Barclay in January urging the Board to consider accelerating plans to install security systems in all Montgomery County Public Schools. As a result, the Board and Council worked to accelerate funding to complete the work more quickly. This is just one example of how we work together to continue to keep our county schools safe.
Korean American Day



On Jan. 13, 1903, the first Korean immigrants arrived in the Hawaiian Islands, marking the first entry of Korean immigrants to the United States. Korean Americans have made significant contributions to our nation for the past 109 years, and many made the ultimate sacrifice in the armed services.  After passage of legislation that I sponsored, the Montgomery County Council and the County will officially recognize January 13 in perpetuity as Korean American Day, honoring the achievements and contributions of Korean Americans.


Last month, I joined with leaders of the Korean community to celebrate the County's first Korean American Day.  I want to thank those who joined me, including James Suh, president of the Korean American Association of Maryland; Christina Shin, president of the Korean American Women's Chamber of Commerce; Harold Pyon, president of the Korean American Social Service Center; Linda Han, president of the Korean American Association of the Washington Metropolitan Area; James Han, president of the League of Korean Americans of Maryland; Chung K. Pak, commissioner on the Maryland Higher Education Commission; Hee Kyu Park, president of the Korean American Senior Citizens Association of Maryland; and Dr. Young Dae Cha, president of the League of Korean Americans, USA.  You can see the  video from the ceremony here.

Forest Glen Passageway


On February 4, I joined the Transportation, Energy, Infrastructure and Environment (T&E) Committee in reviewing the plans for the Forest Glen  Passageway.  We unanimously concluded that this project should proceed into the engineering phase and include a tunnel under Forest Glen Road, safer at-grade crossings, and an extended sidewalk on Forest Glen Road east to Dameron Drive.  I know the residents have been waiting a long time for this needed improvement, and I am happy to report that the project has taken a step forward.

Council Town Hall

I invite you to attend the Montgomery County Council's next Town Hall meeting on Wednesday, March 13 at 8 p.m. on at the American Film Institute (AFI) Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road, in Silver Spring. I am very excited that the Council is hosting this meeting in the heart of Silver Spring's Arts & Entertainment District. I look forward to hearing from you and answering questions you may have on issues such as schools, development, business, transportation, public safety and planning for the Fiscal Year 2014 operating budget. 

The meeting will be recorded and re-broadcast on County Cable Montgomery (CCM-cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon. For more information about the Town Hall Meeting, call 240-777-7931.

FY14 Operating Budget Public Hearings Scheduled


On March 15, the County Executive will transmit the Fiscal Year 2014 Operating Budget.  The County Council looks forward to your comments and input as we review the budget.  Please call 240-777-7803 to sign up to testify at one of the public hearings on the operating budget April 9 through 11.  You can check out future public hearing updates 

on the Council's website.

Land Use Updates
Long Branch Sector Plan

On January 31, the Planning Board held a public hearing on the draft of the Long Branch Sector Plan Sector Plan. Reflecting community input collected for the past three years, planners have proposed land use and regulatory recommendations for a mixed-use, transit-oriented community in Long Branch. This includes development with varied housing options within a pedestrian-friendly community anchored by two Purple Line stations. The Planning Board will refine the plan in work sessions and send a draft over to the Council for consideration this summer.

See the Long Branch Planning Site for additional information.

White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan
Planning staff estimates that a staff draft of the White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan will be presented to the Planning Board in March 2013. The plan will address land uses, urban design, transportation, environmental issues, and the need for more community facilities, and recreational opportunities. Planners are exploring options for a new research and technology node that capitalizes on the growing presence of the FDA and is complemented by mixed-use development. They are also examining the future of several sites, including the National Labor College, the White Oak and Hillandale shopping centers, and several vacant properties on US 29.
The Planning Board is scheduled to deliver the plan to the Council this fall.

See the White Oak Science Gateway Planning Site for additional information.

Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan
Planners are currently working with the community on the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan, which will review zoning and land use, focusing on the commercial/industrial area along Brookville Road and two proposed Purple Line stations.
The Planning Board is scheduled to deliver the plan to the Council in December 2015. 


See the Greater Lyttonsville Planning Site for additional information.