By Chris Adams
In the hearts of the nation’s biggest cities, some neighborhoods are so removed from the normal food system that seeing fresh fruits and vegetables is a rarity.
That’s the case in Washington, D.C., where Pamela Hess and the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture are bringing potatoes and kale, peaches and apples, to neighborhoods poorly served by local corner markets and not served at all by major grocery stores.
The Arcadia Center has both its own farm near George Washington’s Mount Vernon and what is called a “Mobile Market” – essentially a farm stand on wheels. It hits several Washington neighborhoods on a regular schedule, bringing in high-quality, locally grown and sustainably produced farm products. When National Press Foundation fellows visited the center in the summer of 2017, the farm stand – a truck and three tents -- was nestled in the corner of a convenience store parking lot and had peaches, apples, beets, greens, potatoes, eggs, meat and several other fresh items for sale; it was priced at levels competitive with Washington-area groceries.
The market accepts all forms of payment, including food assistance benefit programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Woman, Infants and Children program and Washington’s unique Produce Plus Program.
Hess also explained the connection between food availability in neighborhoods such as those in Washington and public health issues, including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and cancers. All of those conditions have dietary links; the lack of nutritious food contributes to poor health outcomes in low-income neighborhoods.
“There are millions and millions of dollars being spent to sell your children Lucky Charms,” Hess said. “There is nobody trying to sell your children kale.”