The first organic market to open east of the Anacostia is certainly a milestone but is it accessible?
According to a press release announcing the new supermarket:
“… Yes! Organic Market is committed to making fresh produce and healthy food affordable to the diverse demographic of families in the surrounding neighborhoods. The store is accepting supplemental nutrition assistance benefits (SNAP) and Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program vouchers.”
Mayor Adrian Fenty is certainly excited about the store’s opening two weeks before the mayoral primary election. The store was funded through the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED). The Department oversees a program called the Great Streets Initiative, a multi-agency effort to “transform nine under-served and under-invested corridors” throughout the district. DMPED is working with the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the Office of Planning (OP) to design “mixed use development projects, storefront improvements, transportation, streetscapes, and transit improvements along these corridors.” Yes! was awarded a $900,000 Great Streets grant as part of this program.
ACCESS TO FOOD
The grocery store is located in a new building with more than 100 rental units of affordable housing. The development is on Pennsylvania Avenue in the Fairlawn neighborhood of Southeast D.C. The building itself opened in June and “the units are slated for residents who earn 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) or less.”
However, accessibility is a key concern, as it is in much of the District east of the Anacostia River. The closest metro is on the other side of the river – the Potomac Avenue Metro station, which is about 1.2 miles away. And east of the river, there is the Blue Line’s Benning Road Metro stop, 2.3 miles from the store, and on the Green Line, it’s Naylor Road, 1.8 miles from the store.
A recent report by DC Hunger Solutions found that the District’s grocery stores are distributed very unevenly by ward. And transportation is generally more limited in lower income areas of the city. These two factors limit supermarket access and thus, access to higher quality, fresh foods. Although the location of Yes! Market is in an area that needs a grocery store, the fact that it is on a major transit corridor far from the Metro poses limitations. According to Sherita Evans, a community advocate and resident from Ward 8:
“The new Yes! Organic Market is not accessible. It would entail you walking across the bridge from Potomac Avenue on a main throughway. You would have to cross over a bridge and four to six lanes of traffic. There are buses that run there, but it wouldn’t be very accessible for the elderly and disabled, especially if you are doing a month’s worth of shopping. It looks very nice on the outside…I just wish it was a little more accessible.”
The fact that some people are limited to their communities for food shopping is the reason D.C. Councilmember Mary M. Cheh is introducing the Feed Act. The bill is meant to attract grocery stores to low-income communities through creation of public-private partnerships.
But it’s still hard to get around Wards 7 and 8. Evans describes, “transportation is a work in progress. There’s still a lot of inaccessible areas, especially with the increase in fares. But Yes! Organic Market is a good opportunity for the community, and I look forward to having the market in the neighborhood.”