Appearing in The Examiner on July 7, 2006

Study: Access to Quality Food Lacking in Most Areas of D.C.

By Michael Neibauer

July 7, 2006

WASHINGTON - Access to quality food in the District is limited in every ward but the most affluent west of Rock Creek Park, a new study finds, putting whole communities at risk for health problems and children in danger of slow development.

The assessment and scorecard on "food security" in the District, produced by D.C. Hunger Solutions for the mayor's Commission on Food and Nutrition, found Ward 8 most at risk, receiving an overall grade of D-minus. Grading was based on nine factors, including access to grocery stores, food stamps and farmers' markets, reliance on food banks, obesity prevalence and poverty.

Ward 3, with excellent access to grocery stores and farmer's markets, received a B.

"While higher-income communities take for granted the abundance of healthy food resources at their fingertips, many individuals living in low-income communities don't always have sufficient access to food that is high in nutritional value," the report found.

Food security is "so linked to the economic vitality of our community and the ability of our children to excel in school," said Robert Egger, chairman of D.C. Central Kitchen and the mayor's commission.

The study found:

» The District's 23 major chain grocery stores are not evenly distributed. Wards 2 and 3 have one supermarket for every 11,882 residents. Wards 7 and 8, meanwhile, have only two to serve 140,000 people.

» Healthy food items such as ground pork, brown rice and lean ground beef are often not available. Wards 1, 6, 7 and 8 have the least access to healthy food.

» Low-income residents pay upwards of $80 round trip for cab rides to the supermarket.

Poor nutrition can cause diminished cognitive behavior, which leads to poor grades in school and limited development in an adult, said Dr. George Askew, founder of Docs for Tots. "There's a cycle we have to end and end it early," Askew said.

The study recommended encouraging retailers to build supermarkets in low-income communities, having convenience and corner markets work together to buy more fruits and vegetables and streamlining the permit process for farmers' markets.

Overall grades for "food security"

» Ward 1: C-

» Ward 2: C+

» Ward 3: B

» Ward 4: C+

» Ward 5: C

» Ward 6: B-

» Ward 7: C

» Ward 8: D-

mneibauer@dcexaminer.com