By Ahri Aaron Burton
In my northeast Washington neighborhood, Deanwood, the last neighborhood grocery store closed over twenty years ago. Since then, 7-Elevens and fast food establishments continue to resurface. As a result, many people are suffering from health disparities created by these poor food systems. This has motivated me to invest in the health and well-being of the people in my community and others affected by poor food systems.
I began my journey in DC working towards social equity in 2008 when I volunteered with ONE DC. ONE DC is an organization dedicated to creating neighborhood equity. ONE DC believes that all people have a right to housing, a right to be employed with livable wage jobs, and that people have a right to be healthy. It was there that I learned the power of being an effective organizer. I learned the power we have as citizens to determine the destiny of our communities. While volunteering there I learned a lot. I also served as a board member and worked on the Right to Income campaign. I was also served on the original shared leadership team when ONE DC was working to create a new leadership model.
ONE DC inspired me to do the work I do now. The Right to Wellness Campaign inspired me the most. I have always had a desire to contribute to the health and well being of the people in my community. Currently I intern with Zenful Bites, a company dedicated to creating healthy, just and sustainable food systems in Washington, D.C. I assist the chef/co-owner of the company with providing food education to elementary school students at Savoy Elementary School in southeast Washington.
I am on a mission to gather the tools and resources necessary to assist my community and many others affected by these food systems in creating a culture of self-reliance by teaching them how to grow their own food and prepare and cook health-supportive meals. Our communities need healing. Over the last four years I have lost a cousin and five co-workers from diet-related illnesses, the most recent one being April of this year.
This summer I will be attending the Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary School. This school is unique because it focuses on plant-based health supportive diets. The curriculum will give me the tools to become more efficient at teaching others how to prepare and incorporate healing foods into their diet. The academy has awarded me a $6,000 food advocacy scholarship to defray my $23,000 tuition. More support is needed.
Contact Ahri at [email protected]