Food Deserts


Prince Charles Visits D.C. Urban Farm — Next Time, Also Do ‘The Dougie?’

Just days after the royal wedding, England’s Prince Charles visited D.C.’s largest urban farm.

Prince Charles, a sustainable agriculture advocate, visited Ledroit Park’s Common Good City Farm Tuesday as part of his D.C. trip. WAMU’s Courtney Collins reports that:

Common Good City Farm is a farm and education center that grows food for low-income Washington D.C. residents and encourages members of the community to volunteer.

Amanda Formica works at the farm every Tuesday and thinks Prince Charles is a fitting ambassador for sustainability.

“England is way ahead of the U.S. as far as its commitment to sustainability and global warming and creating green spaces,” says Formica.

Courtesy of: Courtney Collins

Prince Charles took time out of his farm tour to visit with community members standing outside the wooden fence.

Urban farming is cropping up throughout the city; just last month non-profit Bread for the City began work on “the largest” rooftop vegetable garden in the District.

Are these efforts the answer to D.C.’s food deserts? The mission behind most of them is to educate people on sustainable food and healthy eating, quite important points to make, but they can’t literally feed everyone in a food desert. Rather, advocates say such efforts help foster a more accessible conversation around these topics. Bread for the City communications development associate Greg Bloom has said about his group’s garden that:

All too often the question of food sustainability and environmental sustainability, it’s actually a really elitist conversation in that the people who are talking about it are the ones with the resources to experiment and buy high-end produce. We don’t think it has to be that way…. And it’s important for us to create at least one space for that.

Common Good City Farm is another space for that, as well.

As we noted before, there are exercise deserts in D.C., too. So although Prince Charles highlighting sustainable agriculture is important, perhaps next time he can also encourage exercise — may we suggest replicating First Lady Michelle Obama leading middle schoolers in doing “The Dougie?”

Mapping D.C.’s Food Deserts

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its online food desert locator this week, and a look at D.C. highlights some grim realities that we know all too well about.

The data explores food deserts (low-income areas with poor access to grocery stores) by Census tracts, which are geographic areas. About 18,000 D.C. residents live in food deserts, where there are also high concentrations of children. In one such food desert, 39 percent of residents are children. And although Prince George’s County (D.C.’s Ward 9?) has more food deserts, D.C.’s deserts have higher concentrations of children. In fact, only two food desert Census tracts in all of Maryland and Virginia have higher concentrations of children than any of  D.C.’s food deserts: Norfolk, Va. and Anne Arundel, Md.


The pink areas are food deserts. In D.C., they are all located in Wards 5, 7 and 8.

But this map doesn’t tell the full story, as food is just one piece in the health puzzle. Kavitha Cardoza explained to my fellow DCentric blogger Anna John that the District also has exercise deserts. Violence and the perception of violence creates environments in which children and adults are less likely to go outside, walk, bike and generally be active.

Take a look at the food deserts from all of D.C., Maryland and Virginia here:

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Walmart: Bringing Groceries to a Desert Near You

Flickr: Ratterrell

Bananas at Walmart.

Over at the City Paper, Lydia DePillis tallies another hash mark for the pro-Walmart contingent:

Count another one who thinks Walmart won’t be all bad: Office of Planning Director Harriet Tregoning. At a D.C. Building Industry Association event at the National Press Club last night, she pointed out that the city still has food deserts, and that the super-retailer was going into several of them with smaller-format stores that will sell a lot of food. “I’m getting a lot of pushback, a lot of brouhaha, about these stores,” she said. “But you know, they’re bringing groceries.”

At the same time, Tregoning emphasized the need for national tenants to bend to the needs of the surrounding area. “We expect you to build something that fits,” she said. “We can’t expect a suburban store to work in our neighborhoods.” She also extolled the virtues of local retail, and wants to work with the smaller independent stores to “up their game” so they can compete with the incoming giants.