Still Too Few Grocery Stores for District Residents East of the River, Report Finds
202-640-1089, ext. 3039
WASHINGTON, D.C., August 24, 2023 — Disparities remain between wards with the lowest and highest incomes when it comes to residents’ access to full-service grocery stores, according to a new report released today by D.C. Hunger Solutions. Still Minding the Grocery Gap in D.C.: A 2023 Update shows that, while the number of grocery stores has increased in the District since 2021, there are still fewer grocery stores for residents living east of the Anacostia River, with only four full-service stores in Ward 7 and three in Ward 8. The report analyzes data on full-service grocery stores and policy changes from November 2021 until August 2023.
Nearly 11 percent of households in the nation’s capital struggle to afford food. Washington, D.C., also has one of the highest rates of food insecurity among older adults at almost 13 percent. Federal nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) help ease the burden by providing families with financial benefits to purchase food.
“Equitable access to grocery stores remains a critical issue in Washington, D.C. Grocery stores are the primary source for residents with low incomes to use SNAP and WIC to purchase the food their families need to thrive, while also putting money into our economy,” said LaMonika Jones, interim director of D.C. Hunger Solutions. “We continue to advocate for increased grocery store access so all residents across the city can have access to healthy, affordable food, the Nourish DC Collaborative, and the Food Access Fund.”
Redistricting in Ward 8 contributed to a small increase in the number of stores, but more stores are still needed, especially east of the Anacostia River, according to D.C. Hunger Solutions. The 2023 report recommends additional investments to continue bridging the grocery gap in Washington, D.C., including:
Increase funding for the Nourish DC Collaborative: In addition to the funds already earmarked for the Nourish DC Collaborative, D.C. Hunger Solutions recommends that the D.C. Council continue to invest additional funding to support small, locally owned food-based businesses with emphasis on Black-, Latinx-, and Indigenous-owned businesses. As the Nourish DC Collaborative specifically focuses on investing in locally owned food businesses and helps address the grocery gap in Wards 7 and 8, greater funding is critical to ensuring that food-insecure neighborhoods receive the loans and grants they need to create lasting, increased food access.
Fully fund Give SNAP a Raise: The Give SNAP a Raise Amendment Act became effective law in March 2023, increasing the monthly minimum payments SNAP participants receive, as well as providing local funds to increase SNAP benefits to match food expenses under the Low-Cost Food Plan. This local investment will help D.C. families better grapple with the hunger cliff resulting from the end of COVID-19 pandemic era SNAP Emergency Allotments. Give SNAP a Raise also supports small and large retailers, as SNAP has a proven record of generating business.
Convene a multisector task force: The community task force, including government officials, food-related business owners, and Wards 7 and 8 residents, would examine grocery store development in those communities. This task force should submit a formal report to the Mayor and D.C. Council with ideas for identifying barriers and possible solutions, reviewing the current and proposed actions detailed in this report, and proposing other innovative solutions.
Invest more in public transportation infrastructure in Wards 7 and 8, including more routes for buses and Metro rail. Planning should prioritize these wards as they currently are the areas with the lowest grocery store access. Along with infrastructure, the frequency and reliability of public transportation must be reviewed and prioritized.
For over 10 years, D.C. Hunger Solutions has tracked the accessibility of full-service grocery stores across the city. “We remain optimistic that more retailers will become a part of our beloved community to continue increasing grocery store access to combat hunger in the nation’s capital,” said Jones.
Read the full report.
About D.C. Hunger Solutions:
D.C. Hunger Solutions, founded in 2002 as an initiative of the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), works to create a hunger-free community and improve the nutrition, health, economic security, and well-being of low-income people in the District of Columbia. To learn more about D.C. Hunger Solutions, visit www.dchunger.org.