How we got started

Lauren Shweder Biel and Sarah Holway were neighbors in the Glover Park neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Lauren worked in the international education division of Sesame Workshop and Sarah was an art teacher at Bancroft Elementary School.  It was 2009, and the whole country had started talking about food systems - the Obamas had just taken office and Michael Pollen’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, was flying off the shelves.

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On maternity leave, Lauren decided to start a farmers market in Glover Park, which would allow her community to directly support the local farm economy.  She started attending D.C. Farmers Market Collaborative meetings to meet other market managers.  Meanwhile, Sarah had the experience of a lifetime when Michelle Obama chose her school to come and plant the first-ever White House Garden. After that, Sarah took over the management of the Bancroft school garden, and joined the D.C. Environmental Education Consortium to learn from nonprofits in the field.  Both Sarah and Lauren also became active members of the new D.C. Farm to School Network.  

The deeper they went into the existing landscape, the more Lauren and Sarah realized that there were many gaps.  Farmers markets wanted to be able to offer incentives to low-income customers, but did not have sufficient funds.  Nonprofits wanted to be able to share their knowledge with teachers across the city, but didn’t have time or funding to coordinate large-scale trainings.  Teachers wanted more support for installing and running school gardens, but lacked both financial and technical resources from the District and buy-in from their administrators. There were clear problems, but no one had the time to focus on collective solutions.

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Lauren and Sarah founded DC Greens to do that work of collaboration.

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Over the years, DC Greens has helped move the District into a new era - one where our city has become a leader in progressive legislation and groundbreaking investments in healthy food access and education.  We helped to pass the Healthy Schools Act of 2010, and urban agriculture legislation in 2014.  We’ve championed the hiring of a Food Policy Director and establishment of a DC Food Policy Council, built city investment in Produce Plus and the Produce Prescription Programs, supported a professional network of school-based food educators, and brought together a range of sectors to collaborate on building a healthy and equitable food system.

Despite these advances, those with lived experience of food insecurity are still not fully at the table.  In 2017, DC Greens launched a new strategic plan that clarified our mission as a food justice organization.  Today, we are working to build   community ownership  of the D.C. food system, and to ensure that racial justice and health equity are central to the creation of a strong and resilient food system in the nation’s capital.