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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Wine bar on 2200 Penn opens doors
By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

GW-led produce market aims to bring healthy eating to D.C. food deserts

When Ward 7 resident Brenda Easton takes care of her grandchildren on the weekends, she feeds them canned vegetables, though she knows they’re far less nutritious than fresh produce.

Easton, who is on disability leave, said she can’t always afford fresh food, so when she heard about the Saturday pop-up produce market led by GW’s Urban Food Task Force, she brought her grandchildren to pick up free vegetables and learn new ways to cook them.

“Fresh vegetables are more expensive than the can, and the fresh is better than the can, but you use what you can afford,” she said.

The Urban Food Task Force offered free bags of produce and cooking lessons at a recreation center in Ward 7, an effort to show residents easy ways to prepare healthier meals.

Wards 7 and 8 are largely considered food deserts, or urban areas where residents struggle to find affordable, high-quality food. The wards have a combined total of seven grocery stores to serve more than 115,000 people, according to 2010 census data.

Saturday marked the first time the University task force went into a low-income area of D.C. to supply fresh produce.

Helen Reid, a retiree who goes to the Deanwood Recreation Center regularly to use its computers and take part in activities for senior citizens, said she has been unable to travel as much after she had hip surgery several years ago. She finds herself opting for fast-food restaurants if she’s already out, rather than preparing a meal at home.

“I eat a lot of chicken, a lot of fish. I try to eat vegetables, but if I don’t have the vegetables I find myself eating junk,” Reid said.

The pop-up market featured GW chef Robert Donis, who offered recipes and showed visitors how to make quick, easy meals.

Donis said throughout the semester, the University’s Urban Food Task Force tries to demonstrate to lower-income families how to fit more nutritious food into their diets, aiming to elevate health quality throughout the city.

“Any little thing you can do to make things healthier for the whole community is important. It might not change overnight how people eat, but you have to keep fighting that kind of battle,” Donis said.

Students from the Food Justice Alliance helped organize the event and donated food from the GW garden.

The group’s president, Mari-Claire Dart, said families that have trouble getting to the grocery store are often the ones always on-the-go.

“A lot of times there’s just corner markets, and they don’t have fruits and vegetables,” Dart said. “So a lot of times they are resorting to already cooked, frozen meals, and so this is a great outlet to just provide them with that little bit of fruit and vegetables that they don’t have to travel far to get.”

Mark Chisholm, deputy director of constituent services for Ward 7 D.C. Council member Yvette Alexander, said he attended the market to learn how to make his own meals healthier and because he has noticed the challenges residents face in meeting their daily dietary needs.

He said many people in Ward 7 do not own cars, forcing residents to take the Metro to buy groceries in other neighborhoods. But GW’s event was able to “bring the market to the people.”

“If we could get to the point where it could be a weekly or monthly event, it would really fill a niche in this neighborhood,” Chisholm said.

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