The Power of Social Enterprise to Fix Our Broken Food System

poverty in dc

Food equity and racial equity are very connected in the communities located east of the Anacostia River in Washington, DC. Julie Kirkwood, Founder of non-profit organization DC UrbanGreens, is working to change that. Founded in 2012, DC UrbanGreens focuses on creation of neighborhood farms on small pieces of under-utilized, urban land to create access to healthy, nutritious foods. The program initially piloted this approach in Southeast DC. This place, where 98% of the population is African American and over 40% of the children are living in poverty, is also designated as by the USDA as a Food Desert—an area where healthy food is not readily available or sold to its residents. For DC residents, this inequity is not just wrong, it is life threatening and is a major contributor to the region’s rates of obesity. Obesity in DC has been strongly linked to racial disparities: 8% of white D.C. residents are obese compared to 31% of African-Americans. This issue is particularly acute for the District’s youth—the youth obesity rate in DC is the highest in the country.

Community gardens are a growing movement in urban areas, but poor communities deserve to walk into a store and purchase healthy food just as easily as their more affluent counterparts east of the River. Nearly a quarter of the District’s residents live in Southeast DC, but 85% of the City’s food retailers are located outside of this region. In 2012, Anacostia’s only supermarket was sold and closed. To reach a grocery store selling healthy foods, residents travel on busses with carts of groceries and children in tow.

In 2013, we helped DC UrbanGreens break ground in Ward 7 to create a unique hyper-local farm. They are now selling food year round exclusively to communities that need it, stocking corner markets east of the Anacostia River with fresh, healthy food, and have doubled the size of farming operations. Julie’s vision is to use community-based farms to fix broken elements of the urban food system and recognize the role that purchasing power can play in transforming poor communities. Her goal is to establish micro-enterprises that can efficiently grow, distribute, and sell healthy food within the poorest communities to poor communities. Every sale she makes is an act of social justice.

We are thrilled to have been part of Julie’s success story to date. Please share our infographic to celebrate the seeds of success we have been able to sow with your support.

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