Every year at the OFN Annual Conference, we present a Justice Grant to an organization with a mission to support economic, political, or social justice in the U.S. This year, on Tuesday, October 22, we honored Dreaming Out Loud, Inc. (DOL) for its mission is to create economic opportunities for the DC metro region’s marginalized community members through building a healthy, equitable food system.
In DC, more than 34,000 residents – the majority people of color living in Wards 7 and 8 — live in “food deserts,” where supermarkets are more than a mile away and access to fresh food is limited. Many also live 200 percent below the federal poverty level. At the same time in the nation’s capital, more than 50,000 residents don’t have high school diplomas, young people face unemployment rates greater than twice the national average, and the rate of unemployment among African Americans is 14 percent. Founded in 2008, Dreaming Out Loud, Inc. (DOL) was created in response to these educational and economic disparities. It began as a child and youth development program. Early on, DOL began to see the connection between food systems and economics and evolved to tackle iniquities by building community-based food systems in numerous DC communities.
Taking an integrated approach, today DOL runs a 2-acre farm and supports community gardens in Wards 6, 7, and 8. The organization’s five community farmers markets provide healthy food access to consumers, as well as marketing and distribution opportunities for local food entrepreneurs. Its DREAM (DOL’s Ready for Entrepreneurship Accelerator Model) initiative is a four-month “boot camp” like program for start-up food businesses. And AyaUplift is DOL’s workforce development program, which offers intensive employment skills training, pays a fair wage to participants in the program, and helps them connect to jobs.
“Dreaming Out Loud is cultivating more than healthy food for our District of Columbia neighbors,” said Lisa Mensah, OFN President and CEO. “They are nurturing community and growing connectedness among people. We are excited to award them the 2019 Justice Grant and support the pride and community engagement they’re sowing in different areas of DC.”
See more 2019 OFN Conference highlights — speaker videos, session materials, photos, and blog recaps — at conference.ofn.org!