I am a Store Champion with DC Central Kitchen (DCCK) and have been working with Truck Fellow Melissa Hawkins to talk with DC community members about their Covid-19 experiences, particularly around food access. The mission of DCCK is to use food as a tool to strengthen bodies, empower minds, and build communities. In 2011, DCCK launched the Healthy Corners program in partnership with DC Health to reduce both systemic and individual barriers to healthy food access. My role on this project is to listen to stories of community members and help to elevate their stories.
We have spoken with community members outside of corners stores and grocery stores across the city. I have heard stories of the complexity of hunger, of challenges in COVID-19, and of resilience and connection. As a DC resident myself, these conversations have been a humbling experience, on the one hand, and have provided a heightened awareness of the challenges and difficulties the residents of this city have had to contend with during this time of pandemonium, on the other hand. For example, we ask questions about food accessibility including if the stores in their neighborhood have what they need. Our main goal is to provide the time and space for them to share with us anything they feel is important to share. We are mainly there to listen.
A common theme that ran through the narratives of our senior citizens was “loneliness.” The fact that they were not able to communicate with their children and other neighbors was debilitating. One lady I spoke with who was confined to a wheelchair, due to missing both legs, shared a story of how she did not have enough food and how hard it is for her to get around to purchase healthy food.
We also hear inspiring stories and see faces of hope. When speaking with Mr. Keymone Freeman, from the “We Act Radio Station,” located in the Anacostia area, he shared a tale of optimism. As a socially conscious individual, he expressed that he thought the pandemic gave him a chance to pause from the woes of life and breathe. He said, “I had a chance to think; I didn’t have to worry about paying rent, therefore, I ate good.”
We will continue to listen to the voices of the community through this year. As I leave you now, I share a poem I recently wrote about overcoming this time of uncertainty as we live through this pandemic together.
In like a thief
Slowly and willfully
Overshadowing its nemesis.
Ruled for awhile
Stars fighting for purpose.
Twittering and twinkling sparks
Bright light burst through
Singing a song of hope.
Like beautiful birds bellowing
Dawn dances anew
Clapping tapping soft shoe
Horn shaped clouds puffy fluffy sits
Doomed by lambent
Downward spirals spinning
Moving rhythmically fades away
Title photograph above: AU and DCCK Project Team (Community of Hope, September 3, 2021): Deborah Wells (front), Melissa Hawkins (left), Marvena Alston (back middle), and Sarah Clermont (right).