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SE DC gets new full-service grocery store, but food inequities remain

Lidl, at Skyland Town Center, is the fourth full-service grocery store to open east of the Anacostia. DC's mayor said she hopes to open another one in Ward 7 soon.

WASHINGTON — D.C. residents east of the Anacostia River will now have an additional grocery store in their community, expanding food access as well as job opportunities to Ward 7 and 8 residents. 

Lidl at Skyland Center located at 2224 Town Center Dr. in Southeast, D.C. will host its grand opening Tuesday at 4 p.m.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser's office said the new grocery store will provide 45 jobs to the District and 90 percent of the employees at the store will be residents of Wards 7 and 8. 

Bowser added the jobs at Lidl will also pay more than minimum wage. However, the announcement did not specify how much more. 

WUSA9 reported in January that the new grocery store broke ground and that it is part of D.C.'s multiyear Skyland Town Center project, which sought to bring additional development, jobs, and retail stores in Ward 7. 

Bowser said work to bring more commercial and residential development in the neighborhood has been a long-time focus of District leaders.

"I suppose five mayor's have worked with this community on this project, but I will be the last one," she said.

The mayor also highlighted the need to bring more grocery store options to neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River. 

"I tell my daughter, 'you have to eat your apples, that makes you strong'," Bowser said. "And, we want every family to be able to have a quality grocery store near their home."

The mayor also said she would like to bring another full-service grocery store to the planned Capitol Gateway Marketplace site in Ward 7.

Currently, Lidl is one of four full-service grocery stores in wards 7 and 8. According to Mayor Bowser's office, in January, there were 76 full-service grocery stores west of the Anacostia River.

That means there is roughly one grocery store for every 39,000 people in wards 7 and 8, while there is one grocery store for every 7,000 people in the rest of the District, according to 2020 US Census numbers.

Lidl's introduction to Ward 7 will not be a cure-all for the community either. Residents in some neighborhoods, like Deanwood, will still have to travel ten minutes by car to get to the closest full-service DC grocery store.

Deanwood resident and teenager Mandel Edeaya said he recently put together a project describing the situation many people in his neighborhood face as being a "food apartheid".

"There's no grocery stores anywhere," he said. "You will see corner stores, liquor stores almost at every corner, but no grocery stores."

But, DC Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio, said the Bowser administration's work to create more grocery stores is not done yet. 

"We will not stop this work until we eradicate food deserts in Wards 7 and 8," he said.

According to Capital Area Food Bank's Hunger Report 2022, about 36% of people in D.C, experience food insecurity. Community members were delighted that a new grocery store was coming, however, they also noted that they hope there will be more improvements to the area.

"Well, I'm feeling pretty good, but I would like to feel better if you just not only give us a grocery store, but really give us a community that is clean along with the grocery stores," Carlene Carter said back in January during an interview with WUSA9. "We do need them, but we also need to do more work."

WATCH NEXT: Report: Food insecurity affect 1 out of 3 people in DMV

More than a million people felt like they couldn't count on having access to healthy food at some point last year.

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