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Ayah Mahana

Portrait of Ayah Mahana

Ayah Mahana – Princeton, New Jersey

Anacostia is one of the oldest and most historic neighborhoods in the Washington metropolitan area. So, when I first began researching it, my struggle to find anything about the community that was not related to crime or advertisements for new developments in the area came as a bit of a shock.

However, I eventually came upon a slew of articles written in 2017, discussing the Grocery Walk that occurred in October of that year. The Grocery Walk was organized as a method of protest and call for change against the prominent issue of food insecurity in Wards 7 and 8. It was then that I had realized my own lack of knowledge in the issue of food insecurity in Washington, D.C.

As of today, the District of Columbia is one of the leading cities in the United States in gentrification and food insecurity. With much of this issue concentrated in Anacostia, I decided to seek an “update” on the state of this topic, as well as fill the gaps in my own knowledge about food insecurity.

In Anacostia, and generally anywhere east of the Anacostia River, many residents are forced to travel considerable distances to access clean and healthy groceries. That is an experience that I have been privileged to never know. So, when I began this story, not only was I humbled by my lack of knowledge about the issue, I was reminded of my blessings and advantages.

This piece provided me with the opportunity to speak with many individuals who shed a great deal of light on the issue for me. I spoke with George Jones, the Chief Executive Officer of the non-profit organization, Bread for the City. In our interview, Jones pointed out to me that the issue at hand should be addressed as food aparthied rather than a food desert. He noted that the issue is not one that happened naturally, which is often what the term “food desert” connotes.

I wanted to use this article as a platform for organizations such as Bread for the City to tell the story, rather than tell it myself. After all it is the work of the individuals in this piece, along with many others— whom I wish I could have spoken with— that drives the change this community so rightly deserves.