February 24, 2011

Community Brainstorm: Building a Healthy, Hunger-Free DC

Rooting DC, last Saturday’s urban gardening forum, offered workshops on everything from beekeeping and canning to green roofs and gardening with youth, as well as panels on the DC Healthy Schools Act, Making Community Gardens Flourish, and much more.

At the end of the day, the “Community Brainstorm: Building a Healthy, Hunger-Free DC” session provided interested attendees the opportunity to participate in a discussion about how to build a more just, nourishing food system in DC. As shown by the turnout at Rooting DC, countless nonprofits and individuals are involved in food politics in this city; this session offered space to think about collaborating and creating change.

photo credit Andrew Plotsky, www.farmrun.com

The food system impacts the environment, the economy, and people, yet there is no centralized agency responsible for it; in DC, at least 13 different city agencies play a role in shaping our local food system.

Carl Rollins of Common Good City Farm pointed out that if we want to change the local food system, we need to get involved—there are currently too few players deciding on the policies, and most of them are non-profit service providers, not necessarily DC residents who have the most at stake. With many groups and nonprofits focused primarily on emergency food distribution, we aren’t always thinking about how to improve the system itself.

Alicia Cameden of the Capital Area Food Bank then explained the concept of a food policy council, which has the potential to improve DC’s fragmented food system. Food policy councils in other cities and states engage with government policy, grassroots projects, businesses and food workers. They serve as forums for the discussion of food issues and coordination between the various sectors of the food system, and can influence government policies.

We broke into four groups to discuss what a healthier, more just food system in DC would look like, and to brainstorm city-wide, grassroots initiatives that could address some of the current problems. At the end, each group shared just a few of their favorite ideas, which included these:
  • Form a leadership council to encourage sharing of information
  • Better utilize volunteers by developing a centralized volunteer bank
  • Emphasize food sovereignty rather than food access; people should have a say in what food they eat
  • Appreciate traditional wisdom; learn from individuals who already grow their own food
  • Build communities around food; for example, happy hours, potlucks and block parties

Only an hour long, this Community Brainstorm was not intended to create answers but rather to gather interested individuals, begin ongoing conversations, and get ideas flowing. There will be many more chances to share ideas at future sessions, which will be hosted by these and other groups in the upcoming months. In addition, a survey is being created that will explore barriers to food access as well as some of the things that are working well in DC neighborhoods.

There are many ways to get involved, such as helping with the survey or attending or hosting an upcoming discussion. For more information, contact Allison Burket at aburket@breadforthecity.org.

The session was sponsored by the DC Food Justice Coalition, Bread for the City, SHIRE, DC Hunger Solutions, Common Good City Farm, Ecolocity, Groundwork Anacostia, Healthy Solutions, MWPHA Health Disparities Committee, ROC-DC, and others.

1 comment:

AnacostiaYogi said...

How about pleasant and clean communal spaces to eat? In most of the low-income neighborhoods in DC, all food must be purchased quickly, eaten out of a box and disposed of outside. With so few places to sit down and enjoy a meal with friends and family, how can we build community?
This requires input from the private sector on why sit-down eating establishments don't exist in low income neighborhoods.
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