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Growing a Movement for Healthy Food Access

On October 14th, DC Central Kitchen was proud to participate as a Planning Partner in the first-ever Grocery Walk highlighting the ‘grocery gap’ in DC’s Ward 8. Initiated by our friends at DC Greens, the Grocery Walk leveraged the energy and connections of local partners like DC Hunger Solutions, Bread for the City, the Health Alliance Network, Capital Area Food Bank, and Martha’s Table to rally 500 residents around this cause.

In more affluent areas of our city, it can be hard to keep up with all the grocery stores that are opening their doors or renovating their storefronts. But east of the Anacostia River, these essential access points for healthy food are scarce, with just three supermarkets serving 150,000 District residents.

As our team walked from the Giant supermarket in Ward 8 to downtown Anacostia, we passed two of our Healthy Corners partner stores. The health and equity implications of this grocery gap are why we launched the Healthy Corners program six years ago in collaboration with the DC Department of Health, and the powerful demand for healthy, affordable food is why we’re on track to sell more than 250,000 units of fresh produce and healthy snacks through our partner stores this year.

Healthy Corners is one of several homegrown solutions working to expand healthy food access in under-resourced communities of DC. Our Healthy School Food program is another, dishing up scratch-cooked, locally sourced meals at 11 DC Public Schools in Ward 7. Other innovative local efforts led by our Grocery Walk partners include the Produce Plus program, which incentivizes farmers’ market purchases, the Produce Prescription program, which equips doctors to write prescriptions for free, fresh produce, and the Joyful Food Markets program, which allows families to shop for nutritious food at no cost at 39 area elementary schools. Our friends at Dreaming Out Loud are working with the community surrounding Kelly Miller Middle School, where we serve high-quality school meals each day, to launch a farm that will grow food and incubate local economic development solutions.

That’s a powerful movement, and DC Central Kitchen is honored to be a part of it. While we continue to support policies that will expand healthy food access and help open more grocery stores, we’re also focused on the underlying economic concerns that perpetuate ‘food deserts.’ Our city needs more solutions that will empower people to secure living wage jobs and embark on meaningful careers, and we need to use our food access programs to create sustainable employment opportunities. Today, DC Central Kitchen is doing just that, with 80 graduates of our Culinary Job Training program earning fair wages and full benefits as they prepare more than 3 million meals for our community each year.

We were deeply moved to see hundreds of people turn out on a gray Saturday morning to stand up for food access and basic fairness. And with your support, we’ll keep right on moving.

*Grocery Walk photo provided courtesy of our partners at DC Greens.