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News for Healthy Corners
Truck Farm is back! Last week DC Central Kitchen staff prepared the truck for its third year as a traveling, edible garden exhibit aimed at introducing the city’s youth to gardening and fresh, healthy foods. The bed of our Truck Farm is now growing carrots, snap peas, bush beans, lemon thyme, purple sage and about twenty other vegetables and herbs.
We’d like to thank our financial sponsors, the Aetna Foundation and the 15 Foundation, for making this work possible. More thanks to Old City Farm and Guild for donating seedlings for last week’s planting and Johnson Florist and Garden Center for donating supplies.
During this year’s growing season, we will be taking the Truck Farm to visit kids at the youth agencies, schools, and Healthy Corners stores that we serve, as well as city farmers markets. During each visit we’ll introduce kids to gardening and show them that it really is possible to grow your own food right here in the city. Each hands on session allows kids to touch, smell and even taste fresh veggies and herbs.
The Truck Farm is an important part of our wrap-around approach to ending childhood hunger. The program generates enthusiasm about eating fresh foods and increases participation in the healthy, scratch-cooked meals we deliver to ten DC schools in Ward 5, 7, and 8 by using lessons to generate enthusiasm about the fresh fruits and vegetables on their lunch trays.
Co-Written by Shannon Simmons
In July 2012, our corner store delivery effort added a new distribution site in Washington, DC’s Ward 5, where fresh, healthy food is hard to find.
Like most of our partners, this store offered only junk food before signing up for our deliveries of fresh food and nutritious snacks. This small market was unique, however, as it was located within Milestone Place, a transitional home for 35 formerly homeless adults.
Milestone Place resident Jesse Smith, who is in his fifties and has spent the past year at this facility, told us that he likes “to come down to buy trail mix and fresh fruits: bananas, apples, grapes. I like being able to grab fresh fruits and vegetables here at Milestone place because I hate shopping and going to the grocery store. This is really convenient. Without this program, I’d have to go Giant on Rhode Island Avenue,” a store located three miles away.
The switch to healthy eating wasn’t easy for Jesse. “I’m a sweets person,” he admits, “but I’m trying to stay away them so I’ll come down here and grab some grapes to snack on. I love the grapes and am eating a lot of them these days.”
Expressing his appreciation for DC Central Kitchen’s “very affordable” items, Jesse tells us that “my doctor has encouraged me to eat healthier foods and now that I have been, I notice that my blood pressure stays down. I am also losing some weight because I’m eating better. The program is a great idea that really works for me.”
Deborah Smith, a Milestone Place Case Manager, says Jesse’s story isn’t unique. She says the facility’s residents “are going to their doctors and they’re telling them ‘You’ve got to exercise and eat right.’ They don’t have a lot of options for fresh produce, but people are becoming aware. We’re trying to help raise that awareness and tell them to come down and get a banana or an orange.”
Smith reports that 100% of Milestone Place residents have purchased DC Central Kitchen’s items since deliveries began last summer and a third are “regular” buyers. Jesse is one of those regulars, and agrees with Smith. “Every time I come down here to buy something, I run into other residents doing the same thing. I think we all appreciate it.”
Healthy Corners is made possible by Chobani and its Shepherd’s Gift Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, NBC Universal, Ober Kaler, McGuinn Family Foundation, the Aetna Foundation, the 15 Foundation and the DC Department of Health.
Every community, it seems, has a corner store or two – but that doesn’t mean those stores are truly part of their communities. When DC residents Mary Ann Brazell and Brian Campbell decided to get into the corner store business, they knew they would have to work extra hard to show that their store, The Cupboard, was different, that it could be a positive part of their neighborhood’s future.
“When we bought the Cupboard in May 2011, nearly 100% of the food offerings were highly processed junk foods,” says Mary Ann. “One of our goals was to offer healthier alternatives – including fresh fruits and produce. We looked around at a number of different potential vendors, but when we heard about the Healthy Corners Program we thought it was a perfect complement to what we were trying to achieve with our market. Not only was this a means of acquiring fresh fruits and vegetables, but it also allowed us to support the mission of DC Central Kitchen and the health of our community.”
When the Healthy Corners program started in the fall of 2011, most everyone DC Central Kitchen spoke to – including store owners, customers, and policy makers – was skeptical about its potential for success. Mary Anne and Brian, however, say that the program is paying off for their small business. Mary Ann reports that customers “have been very receptive. We operate in a diverse neighborhood and have found that the individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds are the most appreciative. We received a lot of positive feedback when we started to carry the produce. It’s been especially nice to see kids come in and willingly grab an apple as opposed to a bag of chips.”
DC Central Kitchen’s Healthy Corners program is showing that selling healthy food can be smart business, even in low-income, at-risk communities. Healthy Corners’ unique blend of affordable products, store owner support, and community outreach is stimulating local demand for nutritious food while strengthening small retailers. We could not have started or sustained this program without the vital support of our funders, Chobani and its Shepherd’s Gift Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, NBC Universal, Ober Kaler, McGuinn Family Foundation, the 15 Foundation and the Aetna Foundation. Thank you for believing in DC Central Kitchen and community we are proud to be a part of!
Changing Eating Habits
Our innovative and thoughtful way of preparing healthy meals at DC Public Schools has led to solid returns. The kids are eating healthier every day and bringing those healthy habits home.
Building Partnerships with Small Businesses
Through Healthy Corners, we’ve partnered with 30 corner stores in Wards 5, 7, and 8 to provide fresh produce and healthy snacks at affordable prices. Not only are we investing in these stores and providing a new business opportunity, but we’re engaging the store owners to become crucial champions of change in their communities.
We’re also investing in local farms and buying much of our produce locally. Our Farm-to-School initiative engages farmers to become part of the solution by providing much of the healthy produce we serve.
Combating Childhood Hunger by Providing Three Square Meals
Together, our Healthy School Food initiative and Healthy Returns effort, which delivers meals and snacks to after school programs and summer camps, give kids healthy, scratch-cooked meals three times per day. And these meals are packed with fresh local produce, whole grains, and lean proteins.
Educating the Community
With our Truck Farm, school cooking demos, and community outreach efforts, we’re educating the entire community about nutrition. Last year, we educated over 9,800 individuals with hands-on strategies for healthy eating and an additional 2,300 children through the Truck Farm, an innovative traveling edible exhibit that teaches kids where food comes from.
You can be part of this success. Make a contribution this holiday season to promote health and combat hunger in DC neighborhoods.
Partnerships have become good business for DC Central Kitchen. Healthy Corners proves that good business partners can become an integral part of driving community change.
In our partnership with 30 DC corner stores, we’ve educated store owners about how important they are in promoting health through the food in their stores. We’ve also worked with the stores to help them market and sell these nutritious items. When customers started buying, retails started buying in. Last year, our 30 corner stores sold over $10,000 in produce.
Community involvement + smart business strategy has equaled new revenue for our Healthy Corners partner stores. Without considering the needs of the businesses involved in the program, we wouldn’t be successful. We talk to our participating stores each week, collecting sales information and first-hand feedback to shape future deliveries and product lines.
DC Central Kitchen is also benefiting from business partnerships by ensuring that Healthy Corners is set up for future sustainability. After the first few months of this program, all of these stores began buying the produce from us at cost. They continue to get technical assistance from our in-house experts to ensure that produce sales keep growing.
Much of the success behind Healthy Corners is also educating the community about nutrition – whether through in-school cooking demos or at community events. We could not do much of that work without our corporate, foundation, and government partners, Chobani’s Shepherd’s Gift Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, the Aetna Foundation, the 15 Foundation, NBC Universal, Ober-Kaler, and the DC Department of Health.
Join all of our business partners and be part of this work to ensure a brighter and healthier future for DC families. Visit our Donate Page and make an investment today.