FoodHamil R. HarrisLifestyle

Local Food Industry Chronicled at Anacostia Museum

After being shuttered for nearly 18 months by the pandemic, Food for the People: Eating and Activism in Greater Washington marks the reopening of the Smithsonian Institution’s Anacostia Museum.

Last week, exhibit curator Samir Megheli and curatorial assistant Dominique Hazzard lead guests on a guided tour of the exhibit that will September 2022.

“Along the Eastern shore of Maryland, Virginia and the Delaware so many chickens are raised it is called the broiler belt,” Meghell said. “More than 500 million along the DelMarva Peninsula.” 

The exhibit was both comprehensive and disturbing because it showed the plight of farmers and immigrants, activist groups like the Community for Creative Non-Violence that fought the government to release free cheese during the economic strife of the 1980s. 

“Given the dynamics of COVID-19 and racial unrest throughout the country, we are more dedicated than ever to uncovering and sharing the voices of the underrepresented,” said Melanie Adams, director of the Anacostia Community Museum.

While the inside galleries have been closed, and outdoor exhibit on food equity has been open for the last year.

As guests enter the museum exhibit there are large images of people harvesting potatoes, chickens and vegetables. “Food Matters,” says a large sign followed by other signs: “Do you know where your food comes from? Who produces, processes, and prepares it? And in What conditions?”

On one side of the exhibition, people can follow the chicken production process from the plants on the Eastern shore to frozen cases of major grocers like Giant. Other exhibits show the challenges families have walking two miles to find decent groceries.

In addition to helping people with needs, the exhibit showed the migration of ethnic families and foods from the District to the suburbs. But in terms of African Americans, Hazzard said, “many have struggled to get proper recognition.” 

“When the federal tip minimum wage was established, farmworkers and restaurant workers were excluded,” Hazzard said, “and this is why today we have two wage systems, one for those who receive tips and for those who don’t.”

According to Adams, the exhibit is vital because “at the Anacostia Community Museum we have such a rich history but not only telling that history but using it as a way to move forward.”

Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the Greater Washington Area. Hamil has chronicled the Million Man March, the Clinton White House, the September 11 attack, the sniper attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the campaign of President Barack Obama and many other people and events. Hamil is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of the Washington Post where he writes a range of stories, shoots photos and produces videos for the print and online editions of the Post. In addition, he is often called upon to report on crime, natural disasters and other breaking issues. In 2006 Harris was part of a team of reporters that published the series “Being a Black Man.” He was also the reporter on the video project that accompanied the series that won two Emmy Awards, the Casey Medal and the Peabody Award. Hamil has lectured at Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, the American University, the University of Maryland and the University of the District of Columbia. He also lectures several times a year to interns during their semester in the District as part of their matriculation at the Consortium of Christian Colleges and Universities.

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