The launch of the Fresh Food Factory in the Anacostia Arts Center on Good Hope Road in Southeast brings with it the promise of healthier, more expansive grocery options for residents who’ve long suffered from chronic ailments and other effects of life without proximate access to essential fruits, vegetables, grains and spices.
Upon walking into the Fresh Food Factory during its grand opening on Wednesday afternoon, visitors took part in the farmer’s market experience, perusing through the small storage container-like space and sampling a bevy of domestic and international food products from caterers, chefs and crafters as jazz music blasted from loudspeakers.
“We want to promote and show people the differences we’re making in Anacostia through food. We’re impacting the health and wealth of the community with food access and education,” said Amanda Stephenson, owner of the Fresh Food Factory.
Stephenson, an entrepreneur, artist and community health advocate, said that, since setting up shop in the Anacostia Arts Center on May 1, the Fresh Food Factory, open six days a week, has attracted more than 30 customers on most days. Offerings, particularly the spices and grains, originate from India, Ethiopia. Haiti, Ghana and other places of significance to the District’s nonwhite immigrant population.
Presently, patrons can use cash, debit and credit and Cash App. EBT cardholders too will be able to spend their dollars at Fresh Food Factory.
“We want all people to taste the difference in food quality and variety,” Stephenson said. “The community didn’t have access to healthy, ethnic food that represented the various cultures in D.C. There are dialysis clinics and services in the community, but the ones that use food as medicine and convention are limited.”
The Fresh Food Factory joins Bellevue’s Good Food Market, part of a mixed-used development coming soon on South Capitol Street, as healthy food sources for people living east of the Anacostia River. Significant portions of Southeast, designated as food deserts, have few full-scale grocery stores within a mile of residents’ homes, many of which without a car and more than $40,000 in collective annual income. Experts link diabetes, hypertension and other chronic ailments to life in food deserts.
Stephenson’s endeavor to increase consumer access to healthy food and boost the profile of other food vendors, started in 2016 when she used shipping containers, similar in size to the Fresh Food Factory, to set up a farming, commercial kitchen and market space in Poplar Point in Southwest. She later embarked on a journey to replicate that project by acquiring publicly-owned land in Wards 7 and 8. The Fresh Food Factory, for Stephenson, serves as an opportunity to actualize that vision in a reputable commercial space.
In the spirit of taking her efforts further, Stephenson expressed future plans of weekly showcases where chefs, nutritionists and wellness experts show people how to use the products found in the Fresh Food Factory and increase their quality of life. These events, she said, would appeal to both longtime Anacostia residents and transplants from the western parts of city used to going to stores within walking distance of their home.
“We’re right in the heart of Anacostia where people commute to commune,” Stephenson said. “It’s sort of a central location, but a jump-start to meeting the people where they are.
“Members of the community want healthy options,” she said. “They want to adapt to a healthy lifestyle and some have transitioned but they have to migrate across a bridge to other parts of the region for better food options. Now, we have a healthy food oasis. Our community will not have to go so far to get their Irish moss, enjera, jackfruit, Berbere seasoning, seeded grapes and other things.”