Bridging The City's Food Deserts (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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On the Coast: A Bridge to Economic Survival

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:39:37
I'm Rebecca Sheir and welcome back to "Metro Connection." Today we're talking about bridges and we're going to kick off this part off the show with the kind of bridge that doesn't span a body of water or a canyon or ravine. But as environmental reporter, Sabri Ben-Achour, tells us, this bridge in Northwest D.C. connects people from far and wide and brings them closer to their food.

MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR

13:39:59
Twelve-year-old Jordan Moses is up on the roof of Bread for the City, a charity that helps low-income residents with food, medical services and legal help.

MS. JORDAN MOSES

13:40:07
I'm watering some of the flowers.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:40:09
This is a green roof, which means the whole roof has been built to hold gravel and soil and become covered in plants. It prevents storm water runoff and keeps a building cool. After Chicago, D.C. leads the nation with this type of roof with around 240,000 square feet of it.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:40:24
But while most green roofs are mostly flowering succulents, this green roof is a rooftop garden, believed to be D.C.'s largest.

MOSES

13:40:32
Oregano, parsley, we planted some corn last week and I would like to see how that grows.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:40:39
Beneath her feet, Bread for the City will use some of this produce to help feed around 5,000 people a month. Moses comes here with her mom, mostly for Medicaid services.

MS. ERICA MOSES

13:40:48
I'm Erica Moses. I'm a client here as well at Bread for the City.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:40:53
She says she wants her daughter to see where fresh vegetables come from.

MOSES

13:40:56
I don't mind fruit and vegetables but trying to get a kid to eat them, it's kind of difficult. So I think this way she sees them growing from the ground up and see, you know, they come from nothing to every week we come and it's like a little bit bigger and a little bit bigger. So hopefully she can appreciate them a little bit more.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:41:16
Jordan says she'll give it a shot.

MOSES

13:41:17
I don't really like vegetables that much but being up here around them, it'll probably get me to try some.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:41:25
Still, Moses says just seeing vegetables isn't quite enough to bridge the gap to healthy eating.

MOSES

13:41:30
Living in this community, we all don't make the correct choices when it comes to eating. People want you to eat healthy but when you go to the store you can't hardly even afford to buy the fruits and vegetables because they're very expensive.

MOSES

13:41:43
Like a bag of apples at Giant is like $5. I can't afford that, you know, and so me and my daughter, we have to work it out another way. So that's where the fruit and vegetables don't come in sometimes in your diet. I think this way, to give people fresh fruits and vegetables at no cost, you know, will really maybe help them change their way of eating.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:42:05
Bread for the City has made a switch over the years to emphasize nutrition and fresh produce in the food it provides, getting donated produce from local farms and farmers markets. This garden, as big as it is, is just a drop in the bucket. But Deputy Director Jeanne Sanford says there are nutrition workshops and school groups that use this garden as a learning tool and it at the end of the day it's about more than tomatoes and cucumbers and red peppers.

MS. JEANNE SANFORD

13:42:28
More than the volume of food, it's that opportunity to be a part of a community of gardeners, to volunteer. A lot of our clients are looking for ways where they can give back.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:42:37
Leonard Edwards is doing just that.

MR. LEONARD EDWARDS

13:42:39
Bread for the City helped me out of a real tough jam.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:42:42
He got fired from a job and had to sue for unemployment.

EDWARDS

13:42:44
My boss, he had like lawyers all around him. All I had was myself and Bread for the City's paperwork and I kicked his butt and got my money.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:42:53
And so he's giving back.

EDWARDS

13:42:54
Rutabagas, I think its rutabagas, yes. And we planted the little feed 'ems. Yes, this whole ground will be like a nice, lush carpet.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:43:06
And making some new friends.

EDWARDS

13:43:07
Like my friend here, many new friends.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:43:11
He gives a great, big bear hug to Carol Sumooda (sp?) .

MS. CAROL SUMOODA

13:43:15
I love to garden. I don't have any land to actually grow stuff but I've always -- because gardening is exercise, it's very therapeutic and also to get to know your neighbors. I've met just about everyone from every walks of life. I've met attorneys, nurses, teachers, other cooks.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:43:32
And that's sort of the point, says Jeff Wonkel, the garden supervisor here. He's standing by a construction pallet that's been turned up on its side. Edible flowers are spilling out, growing over its slats.

MR. JEFF WONKEL

13:43:42
We had volunteer work with a long-time donor and with a client to troubleshot how to turn this pallet into a planter and they ended up attaching garden cloth and filling it with dirt and transforming this planter into growing space together and they were high-fiving each other and giving each other hugs and it was just a great example of different groups coming together.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:44:02
As the growing season gets going, the volunteers and neighbors here hope to grow much more than crops. I'm Sabri Ben-Achour.

SHEIR

13:44:08
To see Bread for the City's rooftop garden and to learn how to make your own rooftop garden, check out our website, metroconnection.org.
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