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Fifty+ under 50: #foodheroes transforming DC's food system

Everywhere you look in D.C., there are #foodheroes. People helping D.C. residents grow more food, eat healthier, and care for the environment with their eating choices.
That said, naming just fifty turned out to be impossible.

What follows is a listing of an important slice of the diversity of leaders and thinkers working to build a more socially and environmentally sustainable local food system, improve health, and change how we think about food. While we expect you’ll know some of the names on this list, there is a great deal of amazing talent in our backyard that we don’t always hear about.

A note from Lindsay Smith, who compiled this list:
I recently wrapped up two years of consulting with some local foundations investing to support a more equitable regional food system in and around Washington, D.C. During this time, I met or learned about so many incredible people and organizations making amazing contributions of all kinds.

This list is heavily weighted towards leaders in nonprofits given my own experience, but there are entrepreneurs and business owners, artists, local government staff, academics, and others who are part of a growing network committed to positive change. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I could name 150 under 50 if you asked me to right now. There are a host of other nonprofits, high-school students, parents, doctors, philanthropists, investors, teachers, and local policymakers of all ages doing this work too. Go out five or ten miles from the Beltway, and you pull in an entire fleet of farmers and others working just as hard to bring high-quality food to our communities. Start layering in the people working on this issue at the state or federal level and the list balloons again. All of that said, here are some of those under 50 I think you will be hearing more about in the future.

Lindsay Smith consults with philanthropic and other nonprofit organizations to build relationships and deliver customized research and recommendations for building healthy communities. She has a deep personal and professional commitment to strengthening our regional food system. Lindsay is proud of this list of local #foodheroes, however, inclusion in this article is a celebration, rather than endorsement, of some of our leaders and their accomplishments. You can find Lindsay on Twitter @lindsayplans.

Use the following links to navigate through the list:

Policy and community building -  Economic and workforce development, social entrepreneurship, and businessesUrban farming, gardening and compostingHealthy food access - Media, academics, education

Photo mosaic by Mosaically

Policy and community building

After 8 years working to end hunger in D.C., Alex Ashbrook will shift her focus to national strategy at the Food Research and Action Center. As director of DC Hunger Solutions with numerous policy “wins”, Alex most recently advocated to create, pass and fund the groundbreaking DC Healthy Tots Act, which will provide child development centers and homes with $3.2 million in local funding for healthier meals and wellness programs.
Angela Adrar is the founder and coordinator of ECO Hermanas, a group of female farmers, herbalists, environmentalists, and social justice advocates from metropolitan D.C. With deep experience in community organizing, Angela is committed to building community through a restorative relationship with nature.  Using a grassroots approach, Angela and the ECO Hermanas believe now is the time to use food as a tool to support farmers and youth of color in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia to develop solutions to needs in communities like Baltimore's Sandtown.

Lauren Shweder Biel is executive director and co-founder of DC Greens with education director Sarah Holway. DC Greens uses the power of partnerships to support food education, food access, and better food policy in the District. In just six years, Lauren and her team have built DC Greens into a key player in improving our local food system, running the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, training teachers across the city in garden-based education, and advocating for policy change.

Megan Brown
is legislative counsel for DC council member Mary Cheh. Megan has provided critical support to the council member in her efforts to sponsor and pass such groundbreaking legislation as the DC Healthy Schools Act, the DC Healthy Tots Act, and the DC Food Policy Council and Director Act

 DeCarlo is executive director of Manna Food Center in Montgomery County. Whether it is overseeing Manna’s operations, supporting the county’s unique Community Food Rescue program, participating in the Montgomery County Food Security Collaborative or co-chairing the Montgomery County Food Council, Jackie demonstrates a tireless commitment to improving access to healthy food through multiple outlets.

Evelyn Kelly is a senior program manager at the Institute for Public Health Innovation where she works with a range of stakeholders in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia to implement policy, systems, and environmental changes to improve community health. Evelyn is leading an effort to facilitate collective action among Maryland’s local and regional food policy councils, including those in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. The anticipated outcome is a MD Food Charter, which will identify shared priorities for policy changes at the state level. 

Allison Lilly is the sustainability and wellness coordinator at University of Maryland’s (UMD) Dining Service in College Park. She has played a key role in launching the Terp Farm, UMD’s new sustainable vegetable farm in Prince George's County. The farm will help UMD meet its commitment that by 2020, 20 percent of the food it serves will be raised fairly, humanely, locally and in an ecologically sound manner. Allison is also the chair of the Local Food Production Work Group for the Prince George’s Food Equity Council.

Jeremiah Lowery is a policy organizer at Restaurant Opportunities Center United DC. A former Emerson Hunger Fellow, he works for better wages and benefits for the city’s restaurant workers. Although some restaurant workers do make living wages in the city, ROC-United’s research has shown that a greater number do not. Jeremiah works to ensure that those who feed us can afford to feed themselves. Jeremiah is also co-chair of the NAACP-DC Labor Committee and on the steering committee of DC for Democracy.

Alex Justice Moore
is in charge of development at DC Central Kitchen, a nationally recognized leader in reducing hunger through workforce development, healthy school meals, and more. Alex and the entire staff of DC Central Kitchen just celebrated a huge milestone: the graduation of the organization's 100th class of its Culinary Jobs Training program. Last year, Alex chronicled DCCK’s history and systems approach to addressing food insecurity in The Food Fighters: DC Central Kitchen's First Twenty-Five Years on the Front Lines of Hunger and Poverty.

Next page - Economic and workforce development, social entrepreneurship, and businesses >>

Read more articles by Lindsay Smith.

Lindsay Smith consults with philanthropic and other nonprofit organizations to build relationships and deliver customized research and recommendations for building healthy communities. She has a deep personal and professional commitment to strengthening our regional food system. You can find Lindsay on Twitter @lindsayplans.
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