Countless studies suggest that eating fresh fruits and vegetables is not only good for our physical well-being but also for sustaining a healthier society. In spite of this, there are many areas around the world, including in the United States, where healthy, fresh food is not readily available. Low-income urban areas, in particular, are too often “food deserts” where fresh produce can be almost impossible to find. In many cases, the lack of adequate food resources is directly traceable to the structural racism that has deprived low-income neighborhoods populated by people of color of both public and private investment. The resulting toll on individual and community health is a heavy burden, and in our nation’s capital, it falls especially hard on Black communities living east of the Anacostia River.
Since 2009, DC Greens has set out to transform that reality, pursuing a mission to advance food justice and health equity for underserved residents living in the metro Washington D.C. area by building a just, resilient and equitable food system. The organization strives to address structural inequalities in the city’s food system and shift power and knowledge to members of the local community, so they can get access to high quality, fresh foods.
Morrison Foerster’s history with DC Greens goes back to its founders, who initially sought our pro bono assistance to set up a nonprofit corporation and obtain tax-exempt status so it could operate a farmers’ market. Today, DC Greens creates cross-sector collaborations in solidarity with marginalized communities that are experiencing poverty and food insecurity. It partners with an array of public and private organizations, including local farmer’s markets, grocery stores, pharmacies, health providers, and corporations, to develop, fund, and roll out innovative programs that increase access to healthier food for residents in these communities.
Washington, D.C. corporate partner Ali Connaughton and associate Maggie Bradley recently worked with DC Greens on an exciting new project, The Well at Oxon Run. Located within an existing park in the Congress Heights neighborhood of Ward 8, in Southeast D.C., The Well is an intergenerational farm and community wellness space that was envisioned alongside residents of the community with the goal of ensuring that neighbors have what they need to define and create wellness on their own terms. The Well includes an urban farm, a farm stand, an orchard with chickens, a greenhouse, an outdoor classroom, and a large pavilion for community events.
Ali and Maggie were pulled in to help DC Greens prepare for the opening of The Well, including drafting agreements with DC Greens’ private sector partners. According to Ali, The Well is a shining example of a public-private venture that was built out of meaningful investment by community stakeholders. “It has been so exciting to be a very small part of the planning for this program. In addition to being a working agricultural and educational space, The Well will host local artists and will empower local community members to lead on new initiatives and projects.”
Maggie added, “I was proud to play a role in the launch of The Well, a project that is so important to the community and advances DC Greens’ vision of making the District a city where health equity is a core value and healthy food is available to all.”
Whether advising DC Greens with respect to partner agreements, governance or policies and procedures for The Well, Ali notes that the longstanding and productive partnership between MoFo and DC Greens comes down to mutual respect, excellent communication and professionalism.
“DC Greens is a terrific and well-run organization with an incredibly thoughtful, enthusiastic and motivated team,” adds Maggie. Ali concurs, noting, “they are very good at communicating their vision in a way that facilitates our ability to deliver work product that advances their goals, and that great collaboration continues to be what makes our partnership so successful.”
Visit DC Greens to learn more.