Giving Good, Growing Good | By Nana Boateng | Nature’s Spoonfuls
“We believe that every child deserves the opportunity for their brightest future, and a deeply engaged family and community committed to their success.” – Martha’s Table
Martha’s Table began in 1979 as a result of the partnership between Dr. Veronica Maz and Father Horace McKenna, who wanted to create a safe place for children to eat and read after school. They were long concerned about the poverty in much of the nation’s capital, and motivated by the 1968 riots in the 14th Street corridor.
For over 35 years, Martha’s Table has worked to support stronger children, stronger families, and stronger communities by increasing access to quality education programs, healthy food, and family supports. Work focuses on three areas: Healthy Start, Healthy Eating, Healthy Connections, and Emergency Support Services. Martha’s Table reaches thousands of people through food, education, and thrift store programs with significant support from 16,000 volunteers every year.
HEALTHY EATING is a focus area. Martha’s Table believes that access to fresh, healthy food is essential for supporting stronger children, families, and community. Healthy Eating initiatives work to ensure healthy food for those in need and support children and their families to make healthy choices.
JOYFUL FOOD MARKETS – In January 2015, Martha’s Table, in partnership with the Capital Area Food Bank, launched Joyful Food Markets to increase access to and encourage consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables east of the Anacostia River. Joyful Food Markets are run exclusively in elementary schools in Wards 7 & 8. In each school, colorful tables are filled with baskets of fresh produce and piled high with healthy non-perishable food, while festive music plays. The markets are joyful community events, where families and children can mingle with volunteers and school administrators while selecting from fresh, seasonal produce and healthy pantry staples, totaling 23 pounds of food per enrolled student. In addition, Joyful Food Markets feature kids’ cooking activities, recipe samples, and chef-led culinary demonstrations, designed to get children excited about healthy eating and cooking.
Joyful Food Markets currently run in 21 elementary schools east of the river, and—by 2018—will be in every public and charter elementary school in Ward 7 & 8, totaling 49 schools. Wards 7 and 8 are known as the city’s most dire “food deserts.” As one parent explains, “all we have are corner stores in the area, and they don’t provide fresh fruit and vegetables.” The result has been a community of children and families who know how important it is to eat healthy, but lack the resources to do so.
HEALTHY MARKETS – At pop-up grocery markets, children, their families, and neighbors can shop at no cost for fresh, healthy produce and healthy pantry staples. At least 40% of the food available at each market is composed of produce, such as sweet potatoes, cabbage, and kale, and non-perishable staples range from peanut butter to whole-wheat pasta and beans. While families move from station to station shopping, music plays and fresh food samples are distributed.
MARTHA’S MARKETS – Martha’s Table’s market program began in August 2011 as the result of a partnership with the Target Foundation’s Meals for Minds program. With support from additional generous donors, Martha’s Markets are currently run in 7 elementary schools, two community centers, and at Martha’s Table, where the market is open to students and families in Healthy Start and Healthy Connections programs and Martha’s Table staff. At pop-up markets, families select from fresh, seasonal produce and healthy pantry staples at no cost every month. In addition, our markets include chef-led culinary demonstrations designed to spread the joy of healthy eating.
Learn more about locations for Martha’s Markets for students and their families at Washington DC area schools and community centers.
Martha’s Table relies on volunteers to support the Healthy Start, Healthy Eating, and Healthy Connections programs. Volunteering at Martha’s Table creates a bridge for people to connect with their community and DC neighbors. Volunteer program helps shape our community and allows people to live with shared values and to be a part of the solution. Learn more about Martha’s Table and how to get involved. http://marthastable.org/get-involved-2/