May 7, 2008

Fighting for Food: Simple Solutions for DC

by Joni Podschun, Advocacy Associate at So Others Might Eat.

There’s a fairly simple list of things D.C. residents need to be healthy: money to consistently buy a nourishing diet; knowledge about healthy and nutritious cooking; and healthy, affordable food stores in their neighborhoods.

Right now, these are not a reality for one-third of D.C. residents who are at risk of or suffering from hunger. But a group of local food advocates have been working on a holistic response.

The federal nutrition programs help bridge the income gap for the 90,000 residents on Food Stamps and 15,000 on WIC. I won’t go into the problems with the low Food Stamps payment (did you hear about it through the Food Stamps Challenge ?), but more could be done to make sure people know if they’re eligible and how to apply.

The city also needs to bolster nutrition education, an essential part of any assistance program aiming for systemic change.

Lastly, there’s a problem with access to food. According to D.C. Hunger Solutions, Wards 2 and 3 in the Northwest part of D.C. have one grocery store for every 11,000 people while the area east of the Anacostia—Wards 7 and 8—have only three full-service grocery stores.

Healthy Affordable Food for All, a coalition of advocates, service providers, and local food activists, got together last fall and came up with the idea of a Fresh Food Opportunities Bank (FFOB) that would:

Enhance knowledge of federal nutrition programs.

Provide infrastructure at corner stores, non-profit feeding programs, and others to store and distribute fresh produce.

Expand funding opportunities to farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture programs, community gardens, and other programs to increase capacity to provide fresh, healthy, and local food to low-income communities.

Fund a supermarket development study.

Improve the nutritional content of the food served at before- and after-school programs.
Expand nutrition education efforts.

Every aspect of this initiative fosters economic development in low-income areas, whether for small and large food retailers, non-profit organizations, or the surrounding neighborhoods. Most of it could be accomplished through small grants to enhance a system of food delivery that’s already in place. We think it makes a lot of sense.

We circulated a letter with 80 signatories in support of the FFOB to Councilmembers this week and plan to visit between now and the Council vote on May 13th. If you think this is something that should be in the city budget for Fiscal Year 2009, please email the Councilmembers [] to tell them how you feel. We need your help to make this spectacular funding source a reality!

Joni Podschun is the Advocacy Associate at SOME (So Others Might Eat), and works on issues related to seniors, families, and access to healthy food. You can reach her at 202-797-8806 x. 2112 or For more information on SOME’s advocacy on food issues, please visit their website.

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