You would not think of a city having food inequalities and access issues, but in DC, the nation’s capital, surrounded by immense wealth, you have just that. Life expectancy has a twenty-year difference! We heard from a great panel of Lindsay Smith, Tariq Sherriff, and Kate Lee on our recent seminar to Northern VA & DC. It was shocking to hear grocery stores are typically not successful and do not want to go into Ward 7 & 8. As Tariq mentioned, they have had to incentivize grocers to come into Ward 7 & 8 by making them come there before opening a grocery store in a different Ward. It is no surprise the disparities worsened during COVID.
On my drive out of the city, a radio commentator talked about inequalities between the United States and other countries. VALOR Class V spent days learning about what is going close to home in DC and the rest of the country, but it is not just unique to us. It is worse elsewhere. The commentator said he was giving data from a recent Forbes article, which I could not locate. He gave statistics about how the poor in the US would be the middle or upper class in a different nation in another country. If you have a car and tv, you were doing better than more than half of the world population.
How can the United States have people who do not have enough food to eat or access good nutrition? It is everywhere. My community has problems around food insecurities. Our foodbank is typically in need, mostly of peanut butter and canned meat. When the school system had so many students on free or reduced lunch, they had to start offering breakfasts. It was a wake-up call. There have been numerous options where the school has dropped off food for children at their home or distribution days at local churches. There are people in dire need. Are they going to get food? Or is it serving those who need the services most? My community is civic-driven in that we try to look after our own by donating food/supplies and being part of civic-minded organizations. The issue seems to be larger than what is going on literally in my backyard. How do you help people right now and get them to a place to provide for themselves in the future?
We know what does not work. It seems it’s time to come up with better options and at least try something new. At our seminar, we discussed the importance of community buy-in and getting people involved. Sometimes what you think would benefit a group of people is NOT what they want or need. Getting stakeholders involved, bringing more voices to the table, and holding people accountable would be a good start. I cannot attempt to fix the issues someplace else, but what I can do is strengthen MY community. That is one of the reasons I valued my work with the local YMCA. They have countless programs to provide for those in need in my neighborhood, from swim lessons, back to school (Bright Beginnings), reduced memberships/ sports activities, cancer support (Live Strong), food drives, etc. Working with the YMCA is an excellent start to benefiting your community in a meaningful way.