Studies of the District’s neighborhoods consistently reveal the existence of deserts in our nation’s capital. They exist in neighborhoods where thousands of people live, or better yet, survive despite the life essentials they lack such as healthy food, health care choices and economic resources including banks or credit unions.
This Saturday, concerned citizens and advocates are coming together to call on government and business leaders to bring much needed grocery stores to the deserts in Wards 7 and 8 where nearly 150,000 people live but are served by only three grocery stores — one Giant food store in Ward 8 and two Safeway stores in Ward 7. According to a study conducted last year by DC Hunger Solutions, the disparity is glaring in a city that had 49 full-service grocery stores, now 50 with the recent opening of Trader Joe’s at Eastern Market in Ward 6, which alone at 11, has the highest number of full-service grocery stores in the District with two more slated to open soon.
It should be of no consequence that the residents of Wards 7 and 8 are predominately African-American and lower income because many of them end up paying more due to increased transportation costs required to travel as far away as Maryland and Virginia to buy healthy food and often at a lower price. And while many of these residents use supplemental food programs like SNAP and WIC, their desire to feed their families well is just as important to them as it is to those who are flush with full-service grocery store choices in every other part of the city.
We agree with DC Hunger Solutions’ view that “The District’s grocery gap is a food security, anti-poverty, health, and racial equity issue that must be addressed. Closing the full-service grocery store gap must continue to be the District government’s priority in its effort to provide all residents access to healthy and affordable food.”
The solutions coming from the marchers must be heard by politicians who have suggested that “when the people come, the businesses will follow.” The “people” are here now!