Councilmember Vincent Gray (Ward 7-D) and Washington Teachers Union (WTU) Local 6 President Elizabeth Davis were among the speakers Friday evening at the opening reception of The ‘Why’ Food Justice and Our Right to Food Conference, which continues through Saturday and Sunday at Kelly Miller Middle School (301 49th St NE).
Organized by the Gray Panthers of Metropolitan Washington and the Central Northeast Civic Association, the conference aims to answer the fundamental questions: why is there hunger in our country, and why do we tolerate it?
WTU President Davis spoke about issues within the education system and links between schools and activism. She said there is a clear relationship between the food provided to students and the quality of education, saying that quality food was linked to every aspect of school performance. She added that teachers in the District had expressed concern to District officials including the Mayor about the quality of food in local schools, particularly those in neighborhoods on the east side of the District.
“There is a different standard for children who are poor, black or brown or come from the black or poor communities,” she said. “I only saw it after teaching for 38 years, because I had never taught anywhere but Wards 7 and 8.”
In his remarks, Councilmember Gray applauded the work of Davis and Rick and Michele Tingling-Clemmons. He presented the latter with an Honorary Resolution passed by DC Council recognizing their work on behalf of the City of Washington.
Gray noted the lack of healthy food access throughout the District’s East Side, calling attention to the three bills he is currently advocating on their way through Council, including The East End Health Care Desert, Retail Desert and Food Desert Elimination Act of 2017 and the East End Grocery and Retail Incentive Program Tax Abatement Act of 2017. He issued a call for action to those present, asking them to support a legislative agenda working against the existence of food deserts in the District. “Let’s all resolve to do something,” he said, praising conference organizers and attendees for taking action on these issues. “We’re not going to take it any more,” he said.
Saturday sessions will feature representatives from Dreaming Out Loud, the National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association, Capital Area Food Bank, Martha’s Table and the Good Food Market Cooperatives, among others. There will also be presentations and musical and cultural performances. After dinner Saturday, featured speaker Reverend Graylan Hagler will speak on the topic of ‘Why is There Hunger in America?” followed by a cultural presentation of Peter Jones’ ‘Mother’s Day’ performed by Luci Murphy.
Sunday’s session includes workshops on how to write a ‘Food-for-All’ Bill as well as a session on how to effect change in the face of power with organizers Michele and Rick Tingling-Clemmons.
Learn more about the ‘Why’ Food Conference by visiting the conference website, or by registering and attending the conference at Kelly Miller Middle School (301 49th St NE) on Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The registration fee of $25 includes meals, conference bag, pen and t-shirt.