In many low-income communities, individuals and families purchase a large portion of their meals from local corner stores that are stocked with unhealthy food. In order to find healthy, affordable food, they must travel long distances and pay high prices.
DC residents know how hard it is to find nutritious, affordable food in these “food deserts.” While 24% of District residents live in Wards 7 and 8, these areas are home to just 15% of the city’s food retailers. City-wide, DC boasts a “food store for every 1,589 residents, but in Wards 7 and 8 the ratio is one for every 2,585 residents.” Of the seven supermarkets in these struggling areas, less than half accept Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) payments.
Poverty and poor health thus reinforce one another in a vicious cycle of dependency. Of the city’s 43 full-service grocery stores, only two are located in Ward 4, four in Ward 7, and three in Ward 8. By contrast, Ward 3 – DC’s highest-income Ward – has eleven full-service stores. Finally, only three of the city’s 30 farmers’ markets are located east of the Anacostia River.
The popular prescription from many academics and policymakers was simple: if these communities are short on supermarkets and farmers’ markets, well, let’s just build more of both.
But these retail outlets could take years to build and, once open, it is unclear if they could offer the nutritious options low-income DC residents need at prices they can afford. We decided not to wait, instead using what these communities already – corner stores, and lots of them – to bring fresh produce and healthy snacks to DC’s food deserts.
DC Central Kitchen’s Healthy Corners Program delivers healthy, affordable produce and snacks to corner stores in Wards 5, 7, and 8. In addition to delivering items, we work with these small businesses to offer nutrition education, marketing support, and technical assistance.
Our partnerships with local growers, as well as our well-established infrastructure for transportation and food production, help us provide high quality products at affordable prices. To promote the lifestyle changes necessary to improve public health, we partner with the DC Department of Health to raise awareness of this program and the benefits it provides. And like all of DC Central Kitchen’s programs, Healthy Corners is creating and sustaining good jobs for graduates of our Culinary Job Training Program.
‘DC Central Kitchen Healthy Corners Video Shows its Program in Action,” Huffington Post, November 16, 2011 .
The Capital’s Food Deserts, Eatocracy CNN, March 14
D.C. Hunger Solutions and Social Compact. “When Healthy Food Is Out of Reach: An Analysis of the Grocery Gap in the District of Columbia.” 2010. Available at: http://www.dchunger.org/pdf/grocerygap.pdf/
‘Fighting Food Deserts,” NBC 4