EDITORIAL: D.C.’s Poorest Areas Have Waited Too Long for Fresh Produce

Linda (left), a resident of Bel Air, Maryland, and Rhea Marshall (right) of Upper Marlboro volunteer with Exelon and We Are Family to deliver food to elderly residents in northwest D.C. on May 20. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)
Linda (left), a resident of Bel Air, Maryland, and Rhea Marshall (right) of Upper Marlboro volunteer with Exelon and We Are Family to deliver food to elderly residents in northwest D.C. on May 20. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)

It’s been reported in all of the local newspapers, including both The Washington Informer and the Washington Post. It’s been discussed at ANC meetings, bandied about during the DC City Council’s showdowns and preached from pulpits in Wards 7 and 8.

And still nothing has been done to change the fact that D.C.’s four wealthiest wards have close to 70 percent of the city’s supermarkets. Meanwhile, the “food desert” that amply describes life East of the River persists.

Have you ever been in these communities and gone in search of some fresh fruit or vegetables? Good luck!

What about going out to get fish just brought in from the sea? And how far did you have to go just to do grocery shopping at a store with produce that had not reached its expiration date?

These are the issues that have long challenged families in Wards 7 and 8 — communities that are majority Black and have the lowest incomes in D.C. Maybe these residents don’t really matter to those who lead our city. Maybe, those who can make a difference have been distracted. Maybe.

Meanwhile, in areas like Ward 3 and 6, shoppers have their pick in terms of where they can shop for groceries. By the way, the four wards that have the majority of the District’s supermarkets are predominantly white.

The situation has become even more grave after Whole Foods recently announced that it would not bring its farmers market back to Southeast this summer.

We don’t presume to know the why’s and why not’s that helped them make their decision, but it seems like they could have found a suitable location this year in lieu of their venue for the past several years, St. Elizabeths East Gateway Pavilion.

That said, we wonder when city officials will stop pretending that they don’t see that “grocery store access is a racial-equity issue,” as the director of D.C. Hunger Solutions said in a recent interview with our fellow publication, the Post.

It’s time to stop touting D.C.’s push to secure affordable housing while turning a deaf ear to the cries from families in neighborhoods East of the River who must travel well beyond their own boundaries in order to find grocery stores with high quality meats and produce.

Even the poor deserve wholesome, healthy food to eat.

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