Food injustice in D.C.: Reflections from the Grocery Walk

carrot in hand held high

(Sage Wylie/George Washington University)

By Sage Wylie, Food Institute Student Fellow 

logo for DC Grocery WalkIf I’m being honest, one of the things that really hooked me during a GW campus tour was the close proximity to Whole Foods. I’ve always been a huge foodie and I loved that I could get healthy food (on my dining card!) whenever I wanted. This is the story for most of us who live in Northwest D.C.; in Wards 2 and 3, residents never deal with a shortage of food. However, there are just three full-service grocery stores between the residents of both Wards 7 and 8.

Last week, D.C. Greens, D.C. Central Kitchen, and Capital Area Food Bank, among many other organizations fighting inequality in D.C., partnered to raise awareness about the injustice that is happening in the nation’s capital. The Grocery Walk began at the only grocery store in Ward 8. Here, we grabbed signs and carrots to march with and listened to residents speak of what the march meant to them. One man talked about finding a great recipe which called for okra — only to go to the Safeway in Ward 7 to find out they did not carry any.

This hit me hard — I have so much abundance around me in Foggy Bottom. Every Sunday I can walk to the Dupont Farmer’s Market, every Wednesday we have a farmer’s market right here on campus and every single day I can walk to Trader Joes, Whole Foods, or even multiple drugstores to grab my groceries for the day. Never once have I left feeling like my community did not support me in my quest to be happy and healthy.

Poster reads "Healthy Food is a Basic Human Right"The time came and we began our 45-minute trek from Giant to downtown Anacostia. I quickly realized I did not wear the proper shoes for the trip — then I remembered how many people do this trip, or at least parts of it, in dress shoes. This was a cycle throughout the demonstration. I was constantly being reminded of my privilege to be empty handed when so many people walk this far with bags and bags of groceries. I felt grateful for being able to take part in the march at all; if I had been working to support a family or myself I never would have been able to make my voice heard.

We ended at Anacostia Park, where stands were set up with local organizations letting people know of the many opportunities for people to get involved after the march. Apples and water bottles were provided for those that participated in the march and the community members who came to the rally. We listened to Ward 7 Councilmember Trayon White talk about the health disparities that come with the inability to access fresh food. He echoed the words we chanted while marching: “Wards 7 and 8 deserve better.”

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This story was shared with permission from the GW Food Institute Commentary section. Learn more about the GW Food Institute.

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