Working Towards a Healthy, Hunger-Free DC

By: Melissa Roark, Americorps Anti-Hunger VISTA, DC Hunger Solutions ….. 

Lauryn ready for EITCRight here in our Nation’s Capital, nearly one out of seven households struggles with hunger, with uncertain or limited access to, or ability to buy, nutritionally adequate and safe food.

Founded as an initiative of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) in 2002, D.C. Hunger Solutions seeks to create a hunger-free community and improve the nutrition, health, economic security, and well-being of low-income District residents. Our three-pronged strategy includes: maximizing participation in the federal nutrition programs, strengthening and supporting policies that promote the health and economic security of DC residents, and educating the public about the realities of hunger and the solutions already at hand. Two current projects highlight some of the work we do in the community and ways volunteers can get involved in addressing hunger.

We just kicked of our annual SNAP/EITC Campaign that helps low-income wage earners benefit from these two effective anti-poverty and income support programs. From now until April, our volunteers will be at six tax preparation sites across the District educating the public about SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), screening clients for benefits, assisting eligible clients complete SNAP applications, and connecting residents with other nutrition resources in D.C.

We are also excited to be partnering with the Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE) and FoodCorps to place volunteers at 15 D.C. Public and Public Charter Schools across the city each month. Volunteers help FoodCorps members conduct taste tests in the cafeteria at participating schools where students sample the Harvest of the Month recipe and get excited about the healthy school lunches.

Working with our partners to connect eligible residents to SNAP  and students to the healthy meals served in the cafeteria are just two examples of how D.C. Hunger Solutions is working to create a healthy, hunger free D.C.  If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Melissa Roark at mroark@dchunger.org.

Eating Local All Year Long

By: Nikki Warner, Markets and Communication Manager at FRESHFARM Markets ….. 

You eat kale, you cook healthy meals, but do you know where you food comes from? If you shop at producer only farmers markets in our area, not only will you have access to healthy food, but you’ll have the opportunity to talk with the folks who grow your food. Knowing where your food comes from is just the start of a conversation you can have with a farmer, week in and week out, at a producer only farmers market.

FRESHFARM Markets prides itself in being DC’s largest network of producer only farmers markets, including our Dupont Circle farmers market which is open every Sunday, year-round. When you shop there you can be sure that everybody who is vending either grows, raises or harvests their produce themselves. Additionally, all prepared foods are made from scratch and include locally sourced ingredients.

BeingApples a non-profit organization, part of FRESHFARM Markets mission is to educate the public about food and environmental issues. In teaching others about the benefits of eating local at the markets I manage, I’ve learned tons about the practicality of eating local all year round. The concept of being a “locavore” can be confusing and intimidating. You don’t need to stop eating avocados, spend more money, or invest in expensive kitchen equipment to get started. There are things you can do right now to incorporate local foods into your diet that will reward you with better flavor and nutritional value. Eating local all year round is about being willing to try new things. It’s about learning that real foods have a seasonality — sorry, no strawberries until May! It’s also about shifting your grocery budget (gradually) from large food corporations to small farmers in our region. Doing so is great for the environment, great for the economy and especially great for your health.

At our Rooting DC workshop, we will tell you the ways in which your garden plan can complement your desire to eat local all year round. We will arm you with market tips, tricks and hacks to save you money, time and rocket you into a full year of good food, good health and lots of happiness. See you there!

Healthy Alternatives at DCCK!

By: Erica Teti, Associate Director of Communications at DC Central Kitchen ….. 

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DC Central Kitchen’s mission is to use food as a tool to strengthen bodies, empower minds, and build communities. With nearly 200,000 DC residents living on city blocks where the closest healthy food retailer is at least three times farther than the closest fast food or convenience food store, it’s more important than ever that our meals are not only dignified, but packed with healthy, wholesome ingredients, too.

Last summer, we took our efforts to provide healthy meals a step further with the opening of our new Baking Corner. The concept was brought to us by DCCK production manager, Will Ferrell, who came to DC Central Kitchen in 2010 after being released from prison. Will was a student in our Culinary Job Training program and now serves on staff at the Kitchen. With a long held passion for baking and a personal interest area for culinary growth, Will realized he could make our snacks for afterschool programs more nutritious and less costly by doing more baking on-site and relying less on packaged, processed foods. Will creatively uses ingredients such as natural sweeteners and avocados to make traditional favorites, like banana bread and cheesecake, much healthier.

Today, Will, his team, and the more than 15,000 volunteers that work in the Kitchen each year can also come together in the Baking Corner to create new, innovative snacks and healthy meal concepts for our partners.

At this year’s Rooting DC Forum, DC Central Kitchen will serve up samples of another healthy alternative, our “Better for You Brownies.” This new addition to our Healthy Corners program are made with black beans, cocoa powder, oats, chocolate chips and maple syrup and have 115 calories per serving!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreaming Out Loud

By: Christopher Bradshaw, Executive Director at Dreaming Out Loud …..

Woman w peppers sizedDreaming Out Loud is a small organization that punches above its weight. In 2014, with a small footprint we were able to have a big impact on communities and the food system through Aya Community Markets, our growing network of farmers markets and mobile farm-stands. In 2014, we reached more than 10,000 people and distributed more than 70,000 pounds of fresh, local produce from Crazy Farm, our anchor farm partner. We were able to help make this healthy food more affordable through more than $13,000 in direct-to-consumer farmers market nutrition incentive funds.

So how does a small organization make such a big impact? First, we have to thank the communities that we have the privilege of working with and within. With encouragement and making Aya their weekly destination for groceries, it was a success. Secondly, we have benefited from great partnerships with the Green Scheme, DC Greens, Unity Health Care Clinic, and the University of the District of Columbia’s Center for Nutrition, Diet, and Health. Together, our partners helped to run the Produce Plus Program, the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program (FVRx), and provide healthy cooking demonstrations at Aya.

Undoubtedly, the Produce Plus Program (PPP) was the key to our collective success in 2014. The PPP helps District residents access fresh, locally grown fruit and vegetables. Through PPP, recipients of many federal assistance programs can receive $10 per household per market per week to spend on fresh fruit and vegetables at farmers’ markets. It was incredible to see the way that people responded to the program: telling friends, family, and neighbors about PPP and using it as tool to not only stretch budgets, but build new bonds. As one customer on Minnesota Avenue remarked:

“This program is such a blessing! A little bit extra really helps, last week I cooked up the greens I bought and everyone loved them. I’m going to make those again!”

PPP also helped Crazy Farm, who like many farmers in Westmoreland County, VA — a USDA designated StrikeForce community affected by rural poverty — rely on District farmers markets to provide their income and have been incredible partners in building access to fresh produce for low-income customers. With such positive momentum, we are excited about the 2015 season for Aya Community Markets at Unity Health Care on Minnesota Avenue and beyond. Stay tuned!