A fresh take on bringing healthy food closer to home
In Washington, DC more than 35 percent of children are considered overweight or obese, according to the National Survey of Children’s Health. Yet, hunger is also a prevalent problem, marked by inadequate access to healthy food options in many DC neighborhoods.
For 25 years, DC Central Kitchen (DCCK) has given people a place to get a meal and learn cooking skills – relying on donated food and other resources. Recently, drawing on early-stage funding from the Aetna Foundation, they launched a holistic approach to community nutrition and engagement – orchestrating a range of interested groups to make nutritious options more widely available across the city.
Through its Healthy Futures program, DCCK works with corner store owners to creatively market fresh produce by inviting the community to enjoy in-store free samples and recipes. The program provides healthy snacks and delivers nutrition education to after-school programs that serve at-risk youth. Additionally, DCCK works with graduate-student researchers to better understand how people choose produce, which can inform future efforts to boost interest in healthier eating.
The program now engages more than 60 corner stores, which have sold nearly $65,000 worth of fresh produce. DCCK and its after-school partners have delivered healthy snacks to more than 800 children. DCCK's nutrition education events have attracted more than 700 people.
In a creative twist, the group has constructed a “Truck Farm,” a vegetable garden housed in the back of a pick-up truck. It travels to dozens of events each year to help children connect with gardening and locally grown food.
With our help the organization also published a how-to manual – “Turning the Corner: The Inside Guide to Fighting Food Deserts Through Corner Store Collaborations” – to help other communities create similar programs across the nation.