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Ward 7 eats its veggies

Cooking greens at Code Green

Every Wednesday night at 6:30, a handful of families gather to make dinner.
They make lentils, broccoli, rice, and guacamole. But here's the difference: some of these families may be making broccoli for the first time.
They're residents of the Lincoln Heights public housing complex (and the nearby neighborhood). It's the second-largest low-income housing development in D.C., and in Ward 7. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, it's also a food desert, and residents of Ward 7 have some of the highest obesity and hypertension rates in the city.
Non-profit The Green Scheme launched Code Green last fall to teach families in this neighborhood how to cook healthy meals and snacks.
It's one of the few nutritional programs in Ward 7, Green Scheme's family coordinator Darryl Perkins says, and the fact that it meets so regularly is another rarity.
For some families, the class provides them with their only healthy meal of the day—or of the week.
'Hey, not so much salt'
One of Code Green's central objectives is to teach families how to make dishes that are accessible, tasty and affordable, in addition to being good for you. “We don't want to talk about being healthy and give them food that's not accessible,” Perkins says.
For example, during one session, the team taught families how to cook with lentils and beans, which are cheap, shelf-stable, and a great source of protein, Perkins says.
As for the taste, both the kids and parents have been pretty receptive.
Food doesn’t have to be quick and salty to be good, says Shyrie Forney, a mother of two who doesn't live in the complex, but has still been to almost every class since its inception in November.
“My mom cooks dishes with a lot of salt, [and] I just wanted my daughter to pick up info and be able to say ‘Hey, not so much salt’,” says Cecilia Mason, a District resident with a 9 year old daughter, Brazil, who attended a recent Code Green class.
Knowledge won't cure all of Ward 7's health ills. Only four of D.C.'s 43 grocery stores are located in Ward 7. (There are 11 in tony Ward 3.) But it's a start. "We're equipping people with information so they can shop healthy," Perkins says. "But also, even if you're just going to the corner store, [we] are reconnecting food as something that we eat to live, rather than something we do because we're hungry. As something that gives us our vitamins and enhances our life, versus something we eat because our stomachs are empty."

Read more articles by Danielle Cralle.

Danielle Cralle is a journalist hailing from Chicago. She loves to write about any and everything, but she has extensive experience writing about health care. She can be reached at [email protected].
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