Food Security Initiative

The American food system fails to meet essential nutritional and cultural needs for households living on low incomes. Today, it perpetuates inequity; prioritizes mass production and efficiency; distorts the true cost of food; and limits access to fresh, healthy food items for many people and communities. The result is a food system that better serves affluent households and neighborhoods while also threatening the food supply for all future generations. 

The District of Columbia is a microcosm of the problems seen nationally. D.C. has one of the highest childhood food-insecurity rates in the country and a significant income-equality gap citywide, with white residents having much higher median incomes than Black and Latinx residents. 

When children, families and children’s caregivers have limited or unreliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food, they face not only nutrition deficiencies and poor health-related outcomes, but toxic stress related to ongoing food and economic struggles. When experienced prenatally and in the critical first few years of life, these factors can impair a child’s physical, mental and/or emotional development, often leading to a lasting impact on health, academic achievement and personal relationships. 

Our Food Security Initiative is working with a range of partners to create a healthier, more equitable and more ecologically sound food system in the D.C. region ― one that nourishes children, families and communities. Following are examples of work we fund and support. 

4P Foods

In 2018, we invested in 4P Foods, a for-profit food-distribution start-up committed to making good food more broadly and equitably available across the D.C. metropolitan region. This partnership aligns with our purpose of strengthening and filling gaps in the regional food system, and it is helping to solve the logistical problems of connecting sustainably grown and sourced food with individual, wholesale and institutional customers in low-income neighborhoods in D.C. The benefits of this investment also are helping to develop a more efficient and equitable regional food system. Today, 4P sources from more than 600 independent, family farmers and distributes 7,500 pounds of food per month to underserved communities across the region. 

Dreaming Out Loud

We began our partnership with Dreaming Out Loud in 2019 to invest in strengthening their farm and food hub operations at the Farm at Kelly Miller ― a two-acre urban farm located in D.C.’s Ward 7 behind Kelly Miller Middle School. The Farm provides sustainably grown vegetables, fruits and herbs for a community farm share, wholesale markets and a “U-pick” program. DOL is committed to racial and economic justice, organizing farmers markets for more than 10 years and creating jobs in Wards 7 and 8 to improve the food system. Their weekly market provides produce and more to over 1,000 members with a priority to source from Black farmers and food producers, aiming to create economic opportunity for local D.C. residents by building a healthy, equitable food system.  

Arcadia Mobile Markets

Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture was one of our first food partners. Their Mobile Markets are farm-stands-on-wheels that distribute local, sustainably produced food (including food from the Bainum Foundation Farm) to communities in the Washington, D.C. area with limited options for fresh, healthy foods. For several years, we have sponsored the Mobile Market stops in D.C.’s Wards 7 and 8 and provided other support for the program. 

In addition to offering high-quality, locally grown, sustainably produced farm products at affordable prices, the Mobile Markets accept all forms of payment, including food assistance benefits. In addition, they double the purchasing power of food assistance benefits through a “Bonus Bucks” program and provide educational resources for how to prepare the market’s offerings in nutritious, cost-effective, delicious and easy ways.  

Mid-Atlantic Food Resilience and Access Coalition

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, as food shortages began to emerge, it was clear that the issue wasn’t a lack of food but rather a lack of food in the right places. Crops were rotting in fields and grocery stores had empty shelves because supply lines had been disrupted, hurting everyone along the food chain. Economic hardship due to widespread job losses compounded the food-insecurity problem, with low-income households and communities of color hit hardest. 

Several of our partners — led by 4P Foods and Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture — came together to devise a regional solution: the Mid-Atlantic Food Resilience and Access Coalition (MAFRAC). This collaboration works to mobilize the Mid-Atlantic foodshed’s resources to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on both communities and food-related businesses in the region. The coalition made more than 100 grants totaling $700,000 during 2020. It also rescued and redistributed thousands of pounds of food from regional producers to partner organizations across the region. The Bainum Family Foundation is a founding donor of MAFRAC, joining more than a dozen other funders in creating this invaluable resource.