Monday, April 29, 2013


Death to DC’s Food Deserts Webliography

1.    USDA: Food Access Research Atlas is composed of maps of the United Stats and allows you to locate Food Deserts within the United States.
2.    Yes! Organic Market Pulls out of Southeast is an article from the Washington Post, it discussed the unsuccessful organic grocery story in S.E, D.C
3.    Yes! Organic Market in Southeast to Remain Open Under New Name is an article from the Washington Post, it discussed the name change of the organic market with hopes in attracting more customers.
4.    “Race in the Study of Food”, Rachel Slocum discusses how race may or may not correlate with food production and consumption.
5.     DC Central Kitchen’s offers jobs and classes on food prep in the DC area. Their mission statement is, “to use food as a tool to strengthen our Community.
6.    Fresh Farm Market this website includes information on several farmers markets in the DC area, and special programs for low income families who are interested in shopping and or participating in the market.
7.    DC Field to Fork this website connects every NPO dealing with fresh food, & farmers market.  The site is also home to a weekly updated blog, and events involving farming page. This website was also used to obtain information and pictures for every community garden discussed in the blog

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Understanding the Movement

Food Deserts in general fascinate me.  The history behind the neighborhoods, cities and states affected by the unavailability of fresh foods and grocery stores is interesting, and in the majority of cases they started decades before people knew that food deserts existed.  I decided to stay very close to home and discuss the neighborhood that my family has lived in for the past 55 years.  My grandparents purchased their house in 1952.  The house is located in the Southeast quadrant of Washington, D.C, in the Benning Road neighborhood.  Before Denny’s, a popular 24 hour breakfast “restaurant” opened in 2004, the popular Shrimp Boat eatery was the only source of “whole foods” in my neighborhood since the 1950’s.  There were not any grocery stores, supermarkets, or community gardens in my neighborhood in the 1950’s.  My neighborhood does have at least 7 fast food chained restaurants, an endless amount of liquor stores, and many small corner stores.  It is hard comparing Washington, D.C. statistics to many states because it is a city, and smaller than your average state.  Any land that can be marked as “rural” belongs to the National Park Services.  D.C also borders Virginia and Maryland, and sometimes they all get tossed in together and people refer to the three separate locations as the DMV, or the Washington, DC Metro Area.  
Recently, an organic market has opened in the neighborhood.  Media coverage during the first week of the store’s grand opening was heavy.  The main question, Will the residents of S.E, D.C utilize the organic market? Was heard throughout the city.  The initial response within a few months was no. This grocery store is located off of a highway, and it does not have a parking lot.  This alone only allows for travel by foot, or bike, and if you are feeding a family of 3 or more buying groceries here and transporting them home is out of the question. 
The media surrounding the Organic Supermarket and a recent summer job with Arcadia’s Farm to School Network inspired my blog.  Over the summer I worked with elementary school children, and the mission of my project was to introduce the children to “new fruits and vegetables.” The foods introduced seemed common to me, however I noticed for the first time that to some children, and adults that these foods were foreign.  I came across many skeptical and curious children, similar to anyone trying anything for the first time.  When I returned to Tufts in the fall of 2012, I was met by a community garden at my job.  Similar to the children that I worked with over the summer, after the first fruits were prepared to eat, a student that I have tutored for over 3 years explained to us that he did not know what an orange was.  Shocked by the same event within months, I already had an idea fueling the creation of my blog.
Before entering this course Arcadia was the only connection I had with food.  My family buys locally grown food, and supports the community garden but I never thought anything of it.  This course has opened my eyes to many food movements.  In class on the 28th of January, we discussed an article, “American Agrarianism in the 21st Century,” this piece covered topics from the sudden rise in community supported agriculture, and First Lady Michelle Obama’s movement for fresh and healthier foods not only within the United States, but within the public school system as well.  The majority of the course always related back to the question of sustainability and urban farming. 
Working in the Willis Ave Community Center Garden this week reminded me of all of the power structures that surround the actual garden. Yes, Leah created the garden within the space of the community, but one of my biggest fear is that one day the  Housing Authority might declare her use of the space as unimportant and replace it with the park benches that once stood there. Or maybe the small number of families that do support might lose time to help out, or they may move away.  Comparing this to the farmers in California, from the film, The Garden it is a very scary situation.  They watched everything they grew and worked hard for stolen away from them and replaced with a dirt covered soccer field.  The film, The Garden portrayed two types of farmers, the recreational farmer, and the surviving farmer.  The recreational farmer, farms as a hobby, they farm to eat but they are not farming to survive like some families in the film.  The film showed families who depended on the growth of the crops for food at home, and to sell at the market. Although two types of farmers were contrasted they all seemed to share the history of their ancestors connection to the land.  They farmed because that is what their ancestors did, and that is how their ancestors survived.  And when their farm was removed so was their history. 
In Back to the Land, Dona Brown talks about the first every food movement as being a result of the stock market crash.  People in the city realized that the city was not a strong foundation, and moved to rural areas in order to farm.  The success of many famers spread quickly through word of mouth, and agriculture based magazines.  Similar to many movements today, social media and websites help with the promotion and production of ideas.
Farmers markets have existed in Washington, D.C as far as the 1800’s.  Eastern Market is a popular market for many families in the D.C area.  Since its creation, Eastern market has expanded and you can now purchase everything from jewelry to furniture inside and outside of the market.  A small portion of me wants to question why it is slowing becoming a mall, but people seem to enjoy its location and the history behind it. 
Community gardens are popping up all over Washington, D.C.  Cities such as D.C are a perfect example of urban gardens, because the majority of the city is covered in pavement and office buildings. A small area will hold a parking lot, and share some space with its community for gardening and farming.  Some locations are a site to see.  I knew community gardens existed before this course, but I notice them more and I have a stronger appreciation for the community who is able to raise and support its garden.
This course opened my eyes to many ideas surrounding food production.  I remember the excitement surrounding this course when it was introduced.  I did not know so many students, were interested in this course.  Outside of anthropology, I heard a few people who are majoring in community health discuss their disappointment about the class being so small.  Now that this semester is closing I can fully understand, and own my own excitement for this subject matter.  I was worried towards the beginning of the course. I felt that besides the strawberries I planted around the age of 5, Arcadia was all I knew about the food movement, and my work with Arcadia only lasted five weeks.  The food movement surrounds my everyday life, from my community, to Tufts. 
Through this course, and my blog I also discovered how deeply involved my mother is with bringing in healthier foods to the public school in which she works at, and introducing children to healthier options.  The first thing my mother told me to post on my blog was the voting website to bring flowers and vegetables to her school.  I am glad that I am new to the many ideas involved with food activism.  If the information I have learned throughout this course was not new to me it would have been hard for me to keep my blog focused. 
The main focus point of my blog is Food Deserts within Washington, D.C.  Community gardens, location, and race play a major role on my post.  These ideas intersect and connect on so many levels.  Community gardens can be viewed as a small option of ridding the city of food deserts.  Location is another big intersecting idea.  Through location you can discuss the location of D.C, within that you have the location of certain communities, and another sub group within that lies families within that community.  Where are the grocery stores located? Who is able to afford the groceries? In which community do we have the most gardens? In my Community Gardens post I discussed the Fort Dupont community garden that is located on the grounds of National Park Services, so they have the option of tending to the land if they sense it being neglected. Race is the largest factor because the majority of people living in the S.E quadrant of Washington, D.C identify as African- American.  And within our community we only have three grocery store, where a bus ride away on the other side of town you have 12 grocery stores in one small community.
The focus of my blog was easy to maintain than I initially thought.  My biggest concern was the blog itself; I am not big on social websites.  I do not own a Facebook, twitter, or any blog.  The world of social websites use to bother me because I never realized the connection between the person and the website.  I hate to admit it, but after the first blog post I felt addicted. My blog was MY blog.  It came up in random discussions with my mother and with friends.  I see my blog, Death To DC’s Food Deserts as an extension of my thoughts and feelings about my city.  This was the first time I incorporated a social website in a college course and I really enjoyed it.  I have plans to continue my blog after graduation.  

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Community Gardens

There are close to 30 Community Gardens located in Washington, DC.  A handful of the gardens are located in S.E.  The gardens range in size, the smallest of the gardens has about .025 acres of land and is located in a small church parking lot, while the largest garden located in Fort Dupont Park has about 3.5 acres of land.  The rules and regulations of each garden vary depending on its location and community participation.  For example, The SEED Community Garden located on 18th & E Street S.E has a President, two required annual workdays for the gardeners, it requires gardeners to submit working hours, and the gardeners are required to use organic gardening methods. Unlike many of the community gardens in DC, The SEED community garden does not require gardeners to pay an initial or annual fee.
*Fort Dupont Park Community Garden*
 The closet community garden to my family happens to be The Fort Dupont Garden.  Fort Dupont is an old Civil War Fort and has been preserved by National PArk Services.    We are currently being assigned a plot for the spring of 2013.  We have been waitlisted for 2 years.  Through my small research I have found that Community Gardens located on land owned by the National Park Services (NPS) are “convenient” for the people who support the idea of community gardens, but who are not financially stable to maintain a garden, and don’t actually have the time to commit or are uneducated about the gardening process. Because the gardens are located on the land of NPS it is their responsibility to maintain the actual garden, and because the land is owned by NPS they are unable to charge the community annual fees to support the garden.  Gardens ran by NPS can only require participants to live in the DC area, they are not allowed to excluded non community members.  I believe this is a major issue.  The DC are includes, Washington, Maryland, and Virginia.  I can only assume that the gardeners from Maryland and Virginia are not feeding the residents of DC.  
DC's Park and Recreation is another government ran organization that has community garden space.  They are allowed to charge annual fees and they are able to restrict garden use to only members of the community.  They are able to do this because each ward has at least 2 recreational centers, and the gardens are located near the centers.  
*LoveJoy Garden is located on E & 12th Street NE*
LoveJoy gardeners are required to pay a key fee because the garden is protected by a  gate.  LoveJoy Garden is a wonderful example of an urban- community garden.  It is located on a paved plot of land with several manmade garden plots.
Having a garden located in the community, but ran by members outside of the community has its pros and cons.  It all depends on how you define Community Garden.  DC’s Field to Fork Network defines a community garden as:
A space that…
·      Encourage the use of underutilized green space within the District for agriculture,
·      Support diversity, abundance, affordability thus, consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables,
·      Expand health and economic benefits by increasing access to fresh produce, and
·      Engage participants and volunteers in outreach and educational opportunities throughout the year.

I have found DC’s Field to Farm Network to be the most up to date, and updated DC community garden blog in DC.  It connects every small urban farming organization in Washington, DC.  On this one site you can find links and information from Arcadia to the Washington Youth Garden.

In the Laura DeLind reading for this week, “Place, Work, and Civic Agriculture: Common Fields for Cultivation”.  Delind discuss the many ideas of Civic Agriculture.  She believes civic agriculture should be used as a tool to connect the community, not only as a source of food.  Using her definition I want to rule out the location aspect of a community garden.  If the garden is located within your community but member outside of your immediate community controls it, it is not supporting the growth of your community.  A community cannot support people passing by.  For example, my family has been waitlisted for our community garden, however there are currently plot holder who do not even live in DC using the land.  This example alone takes away from the idea of community gardens.  The non- Washingtonians are not supporting the community they are just using the land.  And if they are using land located on land owned by NPS, they are using the land for FREE.

Depending on how you define community gardens all of the included examples can be viewed as community gardens.  

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Breaking The Barrier

The Perfect Location  

FreshFarm Markets has 4 farmer’s markets in the Washington, DC area.  Although their markets are not located in my neighborhood I am still an loyal customer.  The Market close to my community is located on H and 13th Street NE. This is about a 30 minutes bus ride on the X2 bus leaving from Minnesota Avenue Station. This specific FreshFarm’s site SCREAMS farmer market to me.  The location is perfect for any means of transportation.  It is located 3 blocks from Union Station on the Red Line, there are more than 5 metro buses that come within one block of the market, and parking in the area is free on Saturday mornings.  Adding to the transportation perks, Capital Bike Share has a bike parking lot located near the exit of the market. The Capital Bike Share program is a 24hour bike rental service with rates as low as $6.25 a month.

*The market's location makes it accessible for many customers, by foot, bike, or car*

Community Supported because they SUPPORT THEIR COMMUNITY 

            The FreshFarm market brings locally grown and fresh fruits, and vegetables into the NE community.  Speaking from experience and the statistics on their website, Their Saturday Market is never empty.

            FreshFarm offers nutrition assistance programs.  This is the number one reason I believe FreshFarm supports the community in which it is located.  They pay attention to the community as a whole, not just the select few who are financially stable.

There SNAP program allows individuals who are receiving EBT (Electronic Benefit Trust a welfare program that allocates funds to families, and individual who are living under the poverty line or just above it) to use the funds at the market. Funds are transformed into tokens of the same monetary value.

There MATCHING DOLLAR PROGRAM allows SNAP customers to double, or match up to $15 dollars of their EBT funds.  For example, if a customer uses $5 of EBT funds, FreshFarm gives them an additional $5 dollars. The maximum dollars matched each visited is $15, but the tokens never expire, and they can be used at any of the 6 DC or Maryland locations.

Such programs erase the barrier that block many people who are unable to buy healthier foods due to financial situations. 

H Street market is fairly new to the DC area compared to Eastern Market and the Florida Avenue Farmer Market (Union Market).  Eastern Market and Union Market both opened in 1871. However, a market wide fire caused Union Market to shut down, and Giving Eastern Market the title of, “DC’s  Oldest Continually Operated Fresh Food Public Market”.  
*A Sketch of Eastern Market from 1875* 

Eastern Market is open 6 days out of the week, and it is closed on Mondays.  Eastern Market is not my favorite place to go because it is a large indoor and outdoor (in the spring & summer) market.  I tend to become over whelmed in over crowed, and loud situations.  Eastern Market is the Farmer’s market for dedicated customers.  If you do not know how to properly blend in, remember prices, and navigate through large crowds stick to smaller markets such as H Street Market. 
*Modern day Eastern Market*

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Healthy Corners

I recently became aware of DC Central Kitchen’s “Healthier Corners” program while walking to my community’s corner store. One Sunday evening, I was responsible for making the dessert for Sunday dinner.  My dessert of choice… banana pudding.  I spice up my recipe by adding walnuts, vanilla wafers and banana slices. However, I forgot to add the actual bananas to my father’s list.  I asked my mom for her car keys in order to drive to our “local grocery store”, when she told me, “Angel, you don’t need to waste gas on  3 bananas, walk down to the corner store and get them.”  I burst into laughter, “Since when do WE have fresh fruits?”  The corner store my mother was referring to was Jones’ Deli (technically it isn’t located on the corner… lol).  Jones’ Deli has been apart of my community forever.  As a child, I remember taking at least 3- 4 trips in a summer’s day for snow cones, juice, and chips.  Even though the word ‘deli’, is apart of the stores name, the owners did not sell meat or your regular groceries… the only thing available was junk food, liquor and lottery tickets.  Buying fresh fruits AND vegetables from the corner store was unheard of 5 years ago.  Now, thanks to DC Central Kitchen, fresh fruits and vegetables are only a 5 min walk away from my home.   

In high school I completed the majority of my required community service hours at DC Central Kitchen ( DC Central Kitchen’s mission statement is simple: “[They] use food as a tool to strengthen our community.”  They offer jobs, food prep training, and most importantly, they offer healthier choice to many communities that are located in Washington, DC’s food deserts.  Before completing my community service there I thought that DC Central Kitchen was a soup kitchen for the homeless, I was unaware of the many opportunities that they offer to the residents of DC.

Outside of delivering healthier foods to corner stores, DC Central Kitchen works closely with DC Public Schools.  During the school year, they employ kitchen staff at several public schools , and during the summer time DC Central Kitchen offers free meals (breakfast & lunch) to children living in the DC area.  Two sites are located in my area: One summer feeding site is located directly across the street from my house, my elementary school, Plummer Elementary school, and the other site  is located at Thomas ES.  Although I attended Plummer ES for the majority of my elementary years, I am connected to Thomas ES through Arcadia, my younger sister attends this school, and my mother teaches at Thomas ES.

*The sites are located in DCs poorest neighborhoods, “East of The River, in Ward 7 & 8”*

DC Central Kitchen is saving DC from food deserts one meal at a time, and I appreciate their presence in my neighborhood. 

To learn more about DC Central Kitchen Healthy Corners Program click here.
To learn more about DC Central Kitchen click here.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Where are the WHOLE FOODS?

***Before reading this post there are a few basic thing you need to know about the demographics of Washington, DC and the location of the grocery store discussed in the Washington Post article Yes! Organic Market Pulls out of Southeast***
  1. The term “East of the River” refers to the Southeast Quadrant of Washington, DC.
  2.   The majority of people living in the S.E quadrant of Washington, DC are African- American.
  3. DC’s Total Population (2012) = 630,000
  4. DC’s “East of the River” Population (2012) = 140,000
  5. Number of full service Grocery Stores in DC = 34
  6. Numbers of full service Grocery Stores “East of the River” = 3 
  7. More than 50% of DC’s population identifies as African- American.  Simple math can tell you that about ½ of DC’s African- American population lives “East of the River”, and simple math can also tell you that the grocery stores are not equally distributed throughout DC.

Two events sparked this Blog: The conversation we shared in class about Whole Foods, and a recent trip home last week.

* Southeast 1st Organic Market. Yes! Organic Market, located right off of highway 295 on Pennsylvania Ave. S.E. Photo Courtesy of GoogleMaps*
During my trip home last week I noticed that my community’s only Yes! Organic Market was no longer there.  The Yes! Organic Market was created in 2010 with hopes to bring healthier choice to residents who live “East of the River”. Distance wise, the store is about a 12 minute drive from my home, but driving is not an option because the store does not have a parking lot, and it does not help that it is located right off of the highway (and parking in the area is always impossible to find).
            The storeowner is still the same, however he decided to change the name to, ‘Healthy Gourmet Market’.  Two article in the Washington Post, “Yes! Organic Market Pulls out of Southeast” &  “Yes! Organic Market in Southeast to Remain Open Under New Name” discusses his success with his other 10 Yes! Markets in DC that are not located “East of the River”.  The owner believes several factors are to blame for his unsuccessful Southeast Organic Market:
  • Location (Located Right off of the highway there is often traffic blocking the drop off points for the store)
  • Residents (Can enough members of the Southeast community afford a healthier diet?)
  • Accessibility (There is not a parking lot!!!!!)

The points covered in both articles correlated with the Rachel Slocum's article, "Race in the Study of Food". She raised a very important question, "What difference does race make in the fields where food is grown, the places it is sold and the manner in which it is eaten?"
Unfortunately, race and accessibility are an issue with this Yes! Organic Market.  The fact that they do not have a designated parking area is a major issue.  This forces the committed customers, like my family, to transform a 12 minute family car ride into a 30+ minute public transportation ride, or during rainy days, a 20 dollar taxi ride. The taxi days suck for me, and I wonder how other families who live a greater distance than me feel.  Since the residents of the area are African- American race comes into play.  Because the Yes! Organic Market was not successful within its first 2 years of business, without incorporating any other factors a general statement such as, This community, which is located East of the River, does not shop at its community Organic market.  However, the people who are constructing such general statements are ignoring the fact that the location of this Market makes it impossible to have customers if they do not live in walking distance of the Market.  The accessibility factor is greater than the race factor in my eyes.

Fixing The Problem

Hopefully, the “failure” of Southeast first organic market doesn’t close the door on future projects, but opens the door with what can work and what will not work.
Informing the community, my family is really active within my community & I remember the hype around Yes! Coming, however I don’t recall any mention (except for the newspaper article) about its name change.  Although they changed its title in September of 2012, the actual sign outside of the market was changed just recently, recently enough that a current GoogleMap search still displays the name Yes! Organic Market.

*for a list of DC demographics click here

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Why Wait Until College?

Why Wait Until College?

As I was reading the Barlett piece, Campus Sustainable Food Projects I came across a great idea!  Why target universities with “sustainable food project”, why don’t we start with elementary schools or high schools?  Now, I know of two simple responses: Money and Time… But what if money and time weren’t factors in this problem?  The 4 components discussed in the article could easily be converted to aid elementary and high schools:
Four common components of campus sustainable food projects:
1. dining-service innovations in procurement, menus,
and kitchen operations;
2. academic and co-curricular programs, including
courses, concentrations, and internships;
3. direct-marketing opportunities, including farmers
markets and community supported agriculture
4. hands-on experiences

I have drafted a plan (which is an obvious “revision” of the above plan found in the article)
 Target: Washington, DC Public School Cafeterias & Food Suppliers
Elementary School Sustainable Food Project:
            Dinning Services
Discontinue meal transportation system.  By stopping the meals that are “trucked” in on a bi- weekly bias we are automatically opening up a healthier window option: Have ingredients shipped and prepared the day of services.
            Kitchen Operations
This statement might sound ironic, but, the majority of DC Public Elementary Schools don’t actually have kitchens!  They have a large room within the cafeteria with a giant microwave to heat the food.  
What if every building came equipped with an actually kitchen? And with an actual kitchen you would need actual chefs.  In order to implement the following plan the school will need to hire chefs, just not staff who are trained in using a microwave.
            Academic Program/ Activities
This step is the easiest… Simple incorporate lesson plans about where the food being supplied is coming from.
            CSA/ farmers markets
On the student level, take children to Farmer’s markets for a field trip, and enforce the importance of supporting locally grown food.  Compare a contrast the differences between fresh and package vegetables.
The above plan is only an idea.  I do not want to discredit the “New Food, New Visions” program that DC has implemented in several school sites.  But until every public school in DC is receiving locally grown vegetables and fruits we still have a problem.

If nutritional standards are set at a very young education level they well progress with the individuals.  Hopefully, the elementary students who are receiving fresh vegetables will be the college campus leaders who will go the extra mile to support campus wide sustainability projects.