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Over the course of my two year MA program at the Corcoran College of Art and Design, I wanted to focus on finding environmental stories in Washington, DC: the man who petitioned to have a rooftop garden built on top of his apartment building, the homeless woman who volunteered at an urban farm. After the first year, I realized that the issue at the heart of these stories was food access and what people, living without a yard and the means to grow their vegetables, do to eat healthy. Living in a city requires you to rely on public transportation or your own two feet to get around, and for me, that meant walking a mile with my groceries every week or taking an hour-long bus ride. For those who have a large family, transportation to and from the grocery store can be even more difficult.

The USDA defines a food desert as an area where residents do not have sufficient access to food in order to maintain a healthy diet. Food deserts are the result of many problems, such as proximity to food stores, local economic conditions, and education issues. But it’s not just about proximity to the grocery store, as Lindsey Palmer, Director of Nutrition and Community Outreach at DC Central Kitchen, said in her interview for this project. It’s also a matter of what kind of food is available in stores. Many more neighborhoods than those recognized as food deserts suffer food access issues. Oftentimes the food that is available is simply not good enough. I decided to document and study these issues in the ward with the most food issues: Ward 8. This Ward has the highest rate of diabetes, the second highest rate of obesity and the fewest grocery stores of any Ward in the District. Deserts in the District documents one neighborhood, its local economy, its food access, and several people who try to change things.

Watch my final video here or go check out my website to see all of the videos and read stories about different characters in my thesis.