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Gangsta Gardener leads march to promote food equity and urban gardening

Ron Finley brought his global movement to D.C. on National Food Day.

WASHINGTON — Food insecurity is a growing problem across the country. According to Feeding America, one out of every six children in D.C. faces hunger. 

Ron Finley, the internationally known urban garden advocate known as the 'Gangsta Gardener,' was in D.C. Monday on a mission to march from one of our food deserts in Anacostia.  

About three dozen advocates holding signs crossed the South Capitol Street Bridge, through the southwest waterfront to the National Mall. Their mission was to educate people forced to live in food deserts that despite the lack of grocery stores in their communities, they can take back their health. 

“You don’t have to depend on outsiders to always come in and give you access to food you can feed yourself, you have the land, you have the space, you have resources, you can feed yourself," said Jaren Hill Lockridge.

Lockridge is the director of The Well at Oxon Run Park, a farm and community wellness space in Ward 8. 

“We’re bringing resources into the community and letting us decide with ourselves for ourselves what we want to do with it, how we want to eat what we want to eat,” she said.

Even though D.C. leaders just opened a new Lidl in Ward 7, East of the River communities are still considered food deserts with just four full-service grocery stores for more than 160,000 people. In fact, advocates said if you don’t grow your own, folks in food deserts must walk an average of three or more miles to access fresh food. So, their walk, dubbed ‘The Last March for Food’ was exactly three miles. It was led by the Gansta Gardener himself, Ron Finley, who created a global movement promoting urban gardening.

“With this kind of action, with my master class, with my Ted talks - it’s spread all over the world,” said Finley. “So, yes, it’s a movement but it’s a movement to get us back to who we are. It’s not that I’m some kind of ex-gang member or anything, it's ‘gangsta’ having that shovel in that kids’ hands - so it’s changing the vernacular of what we look at as a ‘gangsta.’

After two hours of walking, the group arrived at the National Mall at 20th and Constitution Avenue, NW. They staged their rally across the street from the Federal Reserve. There, the advocates planted their own money not only with Finley’s face on the front but with tomato, carrot, and collard green seeds on the back. Their message was scrawled on the bills that read: ‘Growing your own food is like printing your own money.’

Tyrone Cherry, III traveled to D.C. from Petersburg, Virginia with his two young children. 

“We came up because we live in a food desert, Petersburg is considered a food desert, and because of that we’re in business of serving the community,” Cherry explained, “with community green spaces and we just started a farm that is also a youth farm.”

“It’s fun to plant and it makes me feel very happy and excited,” added his 9-year-old daughter Jade.

Credit: WUSA9

“We have to change our DNA and kids’ DNA and tell them what the real is,” said Finley. “Instead of feeding them soft drinks, fast food because the convenient food is conveniently killing them.”

“We have to take control of our own situation just like the crime,” said Nico Hobson owner of Go-Go Radio. “We complain about the crime in our neighborhoods but a lot of that is us taking care of ourselves like we used to do.”

RELATED: Mayor Bowser announces $9M grants through Food Access Fund for Wards 7 and 8, next application round now open

RELATED: Stuff-the-Truck | WUSA9 partners with DMV organizations for food drives ahead of the holidays

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