WASHINGTON D.C., DC — There aren’t many grocery stores in and around Wards 7 and 8 in Washington, D.C. That inequity in food access is a major concern for many people in the community.
Amanda Stephenson is trying to address food insecurity east of the Anacostia River. Several years ago, Stephenson opened the doors to the Fresh Food Factory to try to address this issue.
The food market offers fresh, healthy and locally sourced products. The store also carries products from places like Africa and India.
But Stephenson’s journey with food and health started on a small farm in Virginia. Years ago, her father was diagnosed with cancer. At the time, doctors gave him just a few months to live.
“He changed his diet, he changed his lifestyle, he exercised and lived 18 years beyond his life expectancy,” Stephenson said.
Stephenson says through her father's experience, she learned that food is not only about nutrition, it is also about medicine and boosting your immune system. That health and education about food and its healing powers is what she now infuses into her community. The Fresh Food Factory is located inside the Anacostia Art Center, a place easily accessible to those who live nearby.
“I wanted to make sure they had healthy food, but that it was locally made and it was economically friendly and ethnically infused,” Stephenson said.
For customers like Nkese Essien-Ibok, having access to a grocery store like this has been crucial.
“For this place to be here and that it has what you need to boost your immunity is a really good thing,” Essien-Ibok said.
Many of the products sold in store right now are from local, Black- and brown-owned companies. Stephenson says eventually her goal is to sell 100% minority and local owned products. Doing so only continues to put money right back into her neighborhood.
“We’re making sure we have a cycle of wealth right here in our community,” she said.
The Fresh Food Factory first opened its doors in 2019. They had to shift gears during the pandemic with online orders and deliveries, but now the store is thriving again. There are plans to expand the current location and Stephenson is getting ready to open a second location next summer on Kenilworth Avenue.