Archive for June, 2011

All DC Food For All posts from June, 2011.


Conference Reportback: Planting Seeds for Economic Justice

Angie Stackhouse is Bread for the City client and a local advocate for social justice issues, particularly for the homeless community. Angie has been helping Bread for the City with the food policy council planning process with the Health Affordable Food for All Coalition, and recently traveled attended a food policy conference with others from Bread for the City. Angie has blogged with us in the past about homelessness in DC.

I came to the Community Food Security Coalition’s local policy conference to find out how we can better serve the homeless community in terms of getting fresh vegetables in shelters. Once there, I met a lot of people who talked about how that’s just one important way among many that we can improve our communities’ food systems, improving our health while also developing economic opportunity.

And I realized that what we all want is healthy affordable food for all – so let’s do it!

How do we make that happen? First, you need to think about who needs to be brought to the table. You need to do the groundwork – going into the communities and asking people how they feel about their food choices and how they feel about not having fresh food in their neighborhood.

You also need to have people who know about things like zoning, people who are affiliated with the Health department (to highlight the importance of sickness & disease happening in the neighborhoods), and folks who have data linking lack of fresh vegetables to sickness and obesity (that’ll help convince City Council how important it is). Then, you start thinking about how to work together to make it happen.

I learned that having something like a food policy council can help make sure the City Council recognizes that people need fresh & healthy food. And I learned that successful food policy councils have participation and leadership from residents who themselves are struggling with these problems and searching for solutions.

But we also learned that you’ve got to be strategic. You have to know how to use the tools that you have with limited resources. Being strategic means being able to clearly define what you’re trying to do, which also makes people more likely to want to sign on.

So let’s get to work! Here are some of my favorite ideas from the conference:

  • Gardening in a way that creates jobs, and supporting healthy foods in shelters will also encourage homeless people to participate in becoming healthy themselves, and feeling more empowered over their own lives. The Gateway Greening Project in St. Louis is one example.
  • Food trucks is an awesome way to get food across the city while also creating jobs. Green carts in New York are an example of that.
  • Transportation matters more for low-income residents. To engage in garden projects, markets, and so on, they may need additional support for travel to and from.
  • Everything Cleveland is doing.
  • Food justice can and should also mean economic justice. Bringing in healthy retail can support local job creation, for example.

And here’s what I’m going to be doing now that I’m back in DC:

  • Check out the websites of all the organizations I learned about, including a business that specifically caters to the homeless community.
  • Dig deeper into the mobile market and mobile garden idea and who’s working on it in DC.
  • Start doing more outreach and organizing. We know everyone who needs to be at the table – let’s make sure they’re there.

Urban Community Fruit Orchard Project

I work at Casey Trees, a nonprofit dedicated to planting trees throughout DC.  I’m working on a new project focused on planting free urban fruit orchards.  My goal is to create fruit orchards in an urban environment that can be accessed, harvested and maintained by the community members as a sustainable means for organic fruit [...]

Local ESL Students move for a better food system

Last year, President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 into law; the act also being a huge boost to First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move! Initiative”. The new law is intended to improve the quality of school breakfast, lunches, and other foods sold in schools.

However, as politicians applaud themselves on taking a step to strengthen nutrition programs nationwide, a noteworthy movement to build a better food system is still ranging on in the nation’s capital. This movement is not being organized by politicians or in city hall, but in the classroom and organized by students who want a change in their school’s food program.

The ESL program at Cardozo High School is comprised of students from countries across the world, from Western Africa, China, to Latin America; which is why they are correctly referred to as “many languages, one voice”. For almost 3 years, with the help of Jenny Nelson the Education Coordinator, they have been trying to wage a campaign to change the food system in their school. Also, ESL students come from ethnic backgrounds that place an emphasis on prepared rather then processed foods, with many of the students being vegan; therefore changing the quality of foods in their school has become a very personal cause for the students.

According to Jenny, the students started out the campaign by trying to talk to the School Nutritionist. However, the School Nutritionist stated that the issue is “closed” and the students have plenty of healthy options at the school’s A La Carte line and with the weekly pizza (although pizza is one of the top 3 causes of child obesity). Jenny and the students will try to reach out to the School Nutritionist sometime in the near future, but they believe the path to changing their food program will probably not come through the School Nutritionist.

At the moment, Jenny and the students are at a standstill. They are still meeting weekly to think of new ways to organize around their cause. They have been trying to reach out to organizations like the Capital Area Food Bank and also officials in D.C. Public School System. Some other options have been to reach out to the Cardozo Alumni Association and also the Cardozo Student Government. Sadly, it has been very difficult because ESL students are marginalized, given their foreign backgrounds.

However, Jenny and the students will not be deterred, and their quest for a better food program is ongoing. While First Lady Michelle Obama is working on her “Let’s Move” campaign on the national level, these students have been moving, fighting, and are becoming an inspiration for a better food system for all of Washington, D.C.

As the campaign continues, I hope to have an update for DC Food For All soon. To get more invovled in projects like this, please visit: http://dcfarmtoschool.org/

Jeremiah Lowery can be reached at jeremiahalowery@gmail.com.

DC: A Community of Gardeners

[Cross-posted on Beyond Bread] Bread for the City’s Northwest Rooftop Garden “vine-cutting” ceremony officially marked the opening of the DC area’s largest rooftop agricultural site. The goal of the rooftop gardens in both Northwest and Southeast is to provide a space for community members to engage with the production of fresh produce, and also to [...]

Food Justice: A conversation for all

Louise Thundercloud attended the Community Food Security Coalition’s conference on local food policy, along with others from Bread for the City. Check back soon for more!

I traveled to Portland last week to attend CFSC’s food policy conference with a couple of goals: namely, to begin crafting language which will enable discussions on food policy to be translated into language, both indigenous communities and people within urban communities can understand. I wanted to be able to show those communities the connection between diet, fitness & health in practical terms, but to also connect those conversations to politically, the importance of being able to eat well.

I learned that all of us working on food justice have got a lot more learning to do, not just how to change policy to make fresh food available to people, but to get more at why it is people don’t have access, and how to better communicate with people who aren’t working in the field.

Healty Food Access: What’s the Farm Bill got to do with it?

[Cross-posted from the Neighborhood Farm Initiative's blog]

Every five years, Congress gets to work on the nearly 300-billion dollar piece of legislation known as the “Farm Bill” – an “omnibus” bill that addresses everything from farm subsidies to commodity growers to SNAP and other programs to support those in need, from foreign food aid to grants from community food programs.

These policies combined set the framework for what and how we eat, and whether our food is nourishing and affordable, what assistance our society provides to feed hungry people. Set to expire in 2012, the most recent Farm Bill included some improvements, but still disproportionately supports a food system dominated by the large-scale, agribusiness approach to agriculture.

At the same time, here in DC, folks have been talking about how our food system is broken – more than one in eight families classify as food insecure, and nearly half of DC residents are overweight or obese. While the NFI & the DC Field to Fork Network believes that community gardens and urban food production can be part of the solution to these challenges, we can also join our voices together to demand systemic change.

Across the country and here in DC, the support for local farmers, fresh and healthy food, gardening, and farmers markets has reached new levels of enthusiasm. That enthusiasm for a new food system, however, has yet to be translated into new food policy. To achieve a Farm Bill that supports the kind of food system we want – one that nourishes our bodies, our land, and our communities – we’ve got to get involved!

Here’s one opportunity: the Neighborhood Farm Initiative is hosting Food and Water Watch for a conversation about the Farm Bill at our next Saturday morning workday! Join us for the Mamie D. Lee Community Garden clean-up day on Saturday, June 4th from 10 a.m. – noon. Then, stick around for a potluck and discussion beginning at noon!

The garden located right between the Mamie D. Lee school (100 Gallatin Street NE) and the Ft Totten Metro Station (Red, Yellow, & Green Lines) From the metro station, turn left (north) and walk up the sidewalk past where the buses stop.

Want to learn more? Check out Food and Water watch’s webiste, or one of my favorite facebook pages – Understanding the Farm Bill. Want to have one of these discussions in your garden or garden spaces? Contact khuynh@fwwatch.org or dcfieldtofork@gmail.com for more.