Ward 7 Council member Vincent Gray talks with a Safeway employee during a surprise inspection of the store in Southeast on Aug. 17. (Lateef Mangum/The Washington Informer)
Ward 7 Council member Vincent Gray talks with a Safeway employee during a surprise inspection of the store in Southeast on Aug. 17. (Lateef Mangum/The Washington Informer)

During “The Grocery Walk” broadcast on WPFW, one of the radio personalities repeatedly said how “insane” it was that 149,750 residents who live east of the Anacostia River share a total of three grocery stores and suggested that government provide “the people” a grocery store.

The newest leaders of the movement’s leaders, Council members Vincent Gray and Trayon White, are the main people pointing out that Wards 7 and 8 account for the majority of D.C.’s residents (one out of seven) unable to provide “adequate food” in their households. Eleven percent of Washington is considered a food desert, a place where residents have to walk more than 0.5 miles to get to a grocery store.

Washingtonians who live east of the Anacostia River hunger for more healthy food (and food delivery) options. More than three-quarters of food deserts in D.C. are located in Wards 7 and 8. Forty-six percent of all food deserts are located in Ward 8 concentrated in Anacostia, Barry Farms and Mayfair, and Ward 5’s Ivy City.

DC Greens, a food-justice organization, mobilized the “Grocery Walk Rally” to call for city investment in access to healthy food for all. In 2016, there were 49 grocery stores in D.C. and the average number per ward was six. The highest count was in Ward 6, which has about 82,000 residents in neighborhoods such as H Street.

“The general trend in U.S. metropolitan areas is the steady movement of people and jobs toward the metropolitan fringe, and the concentration of poverty and distress in the central city and inner suburbs,” said a study issued by Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy. “The movement of middle class people into central cities presents real opportunities — and challenges — for cities and neighborhoods.”

DC Greens and like-minded groups lobby to generate a citywide expectation that food access is a priority. DC Greens uses the power of partnerships to support food education, food access and food policy and adheres to middle-class rhetoric.

“We’re working toward a city where food education is on the menu in every classroom; where doctors write prescriptions for fresh fruits and vegetables as a matter of course; where urban agriculture is a valued element of our cityscape; and where zip code doesn’t determine life expectancy,” the group said on its website. “By leveraging existing infrastructure, resources and talent, and collaboration, we are building a healthy food system that can be a model for the nation.”

Gentrification is a constant hot topic in D.C. The radio host may still be engrossed with government largess from the 1960s and ’70s. But the new stores coming to Wards 7 and 8 will be because of gentrification.

JPMorgan Chase has announced plans to invest $10 million into Wards 7 and 8 in order to prevent gentrification that could be caused by construction of the 11th Street Bridge Park. With construction expected to begin by 2019, the new $55 million elevated-bridge park will bring spaces for performances, public art related to the region, plazas, and play areas.

But the transition is happening, and it’s time to recognize that the process of improving Wards 7 and 8 toward middle-class taste is occurring. Progressive blacks have the capacity to undertake community and economic projects that positively affect communities and economic development. There are benefits from gentrification, and having an interest in understanding the changing D.C., which once had a dense and thriving African-American community.

An entrepreneurial discussion group will convene Saturday, Oct. 28 at Anacostia Neighborhood Library (1800 Good Hope Road SE) from 1 p.m.-3 p.m. This type of group can help aspiring business people — connect them with like-minded people, conduct research, make and plan finances, choose business structure, learn how to pick and register businesses and how to get licenses and permits.

Which is the greater problem for blacks — racism or lack of capitalistic vision? It’s time residents recognize the diverse kinds of entrepreneurial talent available in their communities and put them to tasks. Wards 7 and 8 need programs that provides opportunities for willing students to learn about entrepreneurship.

William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via Busxchng@his.com.

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William Reed

William Reed is President and Chief Executive Officer of Black Press International. He has been a Media Entrepreneur for over two decades. A well-trained marketing and communications professional, Reed...

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