On Saturday, October 14, I joined hundreds of people, including D.C. council members, community members, food justice advocates, and my fellow colleagues at D.C. Hunger Solutions for the Grocery Walk. We started our two-mile walk at the only full-service grocery store in Ward 8, and walked to one of two full-service grocery stores in Ward 7. The walk demonstrated that accessing healthy, affordable food is no easy task, for residents of Wards 7 and 8 who don’t have a car.
The stark inequality in this city — the capital of the wealthiest country on earth — is alarming and disturbing. For instance, nearly 1 in 7 District residents live in households that struggle against food insecurity, and the majority of food-insecure residents live in Wards 7 and 8 and are African-American.
When D.C. Hunger Solutions first surveyed the District’s distribution of grocery stores in 2010, residents in Wards 7 and 8 had access to disproportionately fewer grocery stores than residents in all other Wards. Data from our 2016 report, Closing the Grocery Store Gap in the Nation’s Capital, show that the problem has gotten worse. On average, each Ward in D.C. has 6.1 grocery stores. Now there are only three full-service grocery stores for over 149,000 residents in Wards 7 and 8. In comparison, Ward 6 has 10 full-service grocery stores.
Grocery store access is a racial equity issue that must be dealt with, and it’s a health issue. We can no longer pretend we don’t see what we see.
The Grocery Walk made it clear that closing the grocery store gap in Wards 7 and 8 must be a District priority. To achieve food justice, D.C. Hunger Solutions is committed to working with D.C. councilmembers and local partners to:
- better utilize FEED-DC to bring new full-service grocery stores to Wards 7 and 8,
- strengthen current legislation that improves healthy food access in the East End
- protect federal nutrition programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) and WIC to ensure access to healthy food, and
- work collaboratively to implement sustainable solutions that end hunger and meet community needs.