Posts Tagged ‘Food justice’

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TEAM BUILDING: Anacostia River Boat Tour

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On July 26, the Nspiregreen team went on the Anacostia Watershed Society’s Anacostia Boat Tour as part of this quarter’s team building. This trip gave us a chance to see first-hand and learn more about the efforts being implemented to improve the health of the river. This was a great experience especially since we have been working on some projects related to the Anacostia River’s cleanup efforts.

The Anacostia River watershed is home to 43 species of fish, some 200 species of birds, and more than 800,000 people. The river flows through Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland and past the Capitol Building in the District. The watershed is approximately 176 square miles and around 25% of its land lies in the District of Columbia. (Source: DOEE, February 15, 2018, EPA)

The Anacostia has been polluted by litter, raw sewage, stormwater runoff, and industrial waste since the 19th Century. However, in the past two decades efforts have been implemented to turn “The Forgotten River” into a “fishable and swimmable” water body as defined by the Clean Water Act. For example, the recently opened DC Water tunnel between the RFK Stadium and the Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant is preventing millions of gallons of wastewater from entering the river, thus reducing the levels of bacteria. The District’s Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) launched the “For a Cleaner Anacostia River” initiative aimed to clean the river sediments contaminated with industrial toxins including polychlorinated biphenyl’s (PCBs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAHs).

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Tour Highlights

Below are some highlights of our trip!

Rain, Rain, Rain…

There was a thunderstorm the night before the tour. In fact, this past July was one of the wettest Julys on record! The day we went, the river was yellow-colored and full of broken branches and litter. However, boats were out removing these items. Here is a picture of one of DC Water’s boats cleaning up litter.skimmerboat
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Due to the high levels of precipitation, the river’s water level was really high. For this reason, we were not able to go under the Benning Rd bridge. The water was almost hitting the rail bridge! I heard the area north of this bridge has beautiful scenery and lots of wildlife. We will come back again!

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The River is Improving

The water condition is getting better; wildlife and the levels of subaquatic vegetation have increased. The tour guide also told us that they are testing the use of mussels to clean the water. Fun fact an adult mussel can naturally filter about 10 gallons of water a day!

Bird Nest

 

You Can Also Tour the Anacostia River!

If you want to tour the Anacostia, the Anacostia Watershed Society and the Anacostia Riverkeeper offer guided motorboat and canoe tours free of charge. These tours are funded by the District’s disposable bag fee program.  Tours leave from various locations.

What to bring:

  • Reusable water bottle filled with water (plastic water bottles are not allowed on the boat for environmental protection)
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat and sunglasses

 

To learn more, visit https://doee.dc.gov/service/anacostia-river-explorers

 

Mei Fang, is an urban planner with a strong passion for urban and landscape design, she also enjoys looking for the variety culture inside of the city.

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Connecting the Dots- Food Justice Part 1: Understanding Food Systems

 

In my former “life” in the Capital Region of New York, during graduate school and figuring out a career path, I was able to work in a passion of mine- food justice and access. I even wrote my graduate thesis on youth development and food justice so it was a joy to work in the field (pun very much intended). I had a few hats that I wore: urban agriculture project assistant director, garden volunteer and youth coordinator and trainer, mobile vegetable market assistant coordinator, nutrition educator, recipe developer and cook. Or in other words: growing, buying, slinging, cooking, and talking about healthy foods.

The biggest takeaways of my experience, that permeates my work with Nspiregreen, was the need for knowledgeable people that can relate to communities to connect the dots. In this case, it was connecting dots for people in terms of:

  1. Where their food came from and how it was grown OR how to grow it and
  2. Healthy food could be easy to make and could also be tasty

Many people I worked with and spoke to can think of plants growing in a field and understand the concept of farms, they can see produce for sale at a grocery store, and they can think of prepared dishes and foods they enjoy; but generally these things stay compartmentalized in their minds. Often understanding of the life cycle of that produce, or food systems, from seed to stomach is lost. I’ll be writing this in two parts, today I’ll cover the first point: understanding food systems.

The teens I worked with at the urban agriculture garden year after year were often taken aback when I would pick a cucumber off of the vine, take a bite or slice some off to share it as a snack. “Uh, don’t we need to do something to it?” one kid said. “Other than wash the dirt off, nope!”, I’d say. We’re talking about food that they helped grow with their own hands and hard work, but they didn’t immediately see it as food. To them, these were plants, and you don’t just eat random plants. Produce came from shiny cases in the grocery store and were periodically spritzed with water.

To further help them make the connection we would hold an informal cooking class every Friday, sometimes with a local chef, where we would harvest our crops, wash them, then make some lunch together. Often we would have them experiment with mixing ingredients and creating dishes. I even taught them how to can vegetables (Spicy Pickled Carrots) in one class. It took a little nudging and bartering to try new things, but most of them liked at the very least one thing we made throughout the summer.

During their time in the garden as part of their jobs, we would have activities about the current food system. This included visiting farms, grocery stores, watching documentaries, and having discussions about our experiences. On visits to farms they could learn about dairy production, raising chickens and pigs for meat and other produce operations, as well as see agriculture or related sciences as a viable career option. On very hot days, we would huddle inside a local school and watch documentaries about monocultures, large scale factory farming, and processed foods with a prize given out every time someone heard a certain buzzword to keep them from falling asleep. One activity that everyone loved was a scavenger hunt in a grocery store that included items like: list all of the countries or states where the apples are from, find your favorite breakfast cereal and write in what order number “sugar” is listed as the ingredient, find an item produced within the Capital Region, etc.

At the end of the summer, they had successfully learned:

  • To grow and harvest food using organic methods
  • To cook with produce and make healthy recipes
  • To determine where their foods were coming from
  • The impacts of food from far away and large factory farms
  • The importance to buy from local farmers or producers wherever possible
  • The importance of healthy food for the human body
  • That access to healthy food was a social justice issue

Also by the end of the summer, they were regularly taking home the food we were growing or sitting down to snack on a cucumber as well.

Christine E. Mayeur is an urban planner with a unique set of skills and interests. She has been called a “renaissance woman” by her coworkers and is interested in all things creative and challenging. Christine uses her history of working with communities through grass-roots organizations along with her planning skills to help plan transportation systems that meet the needs of all users. 





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